Pennsylvania, a presidential battleground, is joining at least 15 other states that have agreed to make it easier for welfare recipients to register to vote in agency offices. The Keystone State agreed yesterday to settle a lawsuit over the so-called Motor Voter law, a 19-year-old statute that says public-assistance agencies must offer clients the chance to sign up to vote. Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Virginia also have changed their ways after either being sued or told by advocacy groups how they could improve compliance. The changes stem from pressure by activists whose drive may aid Democrats in November. About 1.5 million people have registered since 2004 because of the drive, according to New York-based Demos, a nonprofit group involved in the Pennsylvania case. The state was sued as the presidential campaigns scrounge for every vote, making ballot access a key front as Democrats challenge restrictive steps taken by Republican-led states.
“When you have a national election that is as close as this one, any little advantage is going to be seized upon by either side,” said Charles Gerow, a Republican political consultant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital. More than twice as many Americans who aren’t registered would vote, if they could, for President Barack Obama than for Mitt Romney in November, according to a USA Today-Suffolk University poll released Aug. 15 by the Boston-based school. It said 43 percent would back Obama, a Democrat, to 14 percent for Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.