Republican legislators Wednesday amplified their claims that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill bypassed the General Assembly by entering an agreement with the Department of Motor Vehicles for a “streamlined motor voter system” to automatically register citizens to vote when they go to the DMV to obtain or renew a driver’s license. At a press conference in the Legislative Office Building, Senate GOP Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said that after Merrill failed to get the legislature this year to approve a bill to establish the automatic motor voter registration system, she “went behind the backs” of lawmakers to negotiate a “memorandum of understanding” to implement the new system administratively. Merrill and the DMV defended the agreement later Wednesday. Under the new “automatic motor voter system,” DMV customers would be registered to vote starting in 2018 unless they decline by choosing to opt out. Under the current motor voter program that’s existed for two decades, DMV customers are registered to vote only if they choose that option.Full Article: Motor Voter Dispute Generates More Heat At Capitol - Hartford Courant.
Connecticut: Officials Tense, Tight-Lipped On Feds’ Probe Of State ‘Motor Voter’ Program | Hartford Courant
The U.S. Department of Justice’s April 15 threat to sue Connecticut over failures in its “motor voter” program — which is supposed to promote voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicles offices — resulted in a closed-door meeting this past Tuesday aimed at resolving the problem out of court. Under “motor voter” programs that federal law requires states to operate, when someone applies to the DMV for a driver’s license (or a license renewal), that application must also include an opportunity to register to vote. Also, requests to the DMV for a change of address must also be forwarded to voting officials in applicants’ hometowns for updating of voter-registration information.Full Article: Officials Tense, Tight-Lipped On Feds' Probe Of State 'Motor Voter' Program - Hartford Courant.
Nearly a dozen people met Thursday to discuss allegations that Montana is failing to fully comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, setting the stage for more meetings and further discussion, officials said. In a Dec. 18 letter, a group claims Montana has not fully complied with sections that establish clear voter registration obligations on the Motor Vehicles Department, which is overseen by the Department of Justice, and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.Full Article: Group discusses ‘motor voter law’ claims.
Advocacy groups and citizens sued North Carolina government leaders Tuesday over what they called a poor effort to fix previously disclosed problems that kept motorists and public assistance applicants from getting properly registered to vote. The state’s elections chief contends that many problems already have been addressed and registration levels are rebounding. The lawsuit in Greensboro federal court comes several months after watchdog organizations wrote elections and health officials and the Division of Motor Vehicles threatening litigation unless they rectified issues associated with carrying out the 1993 federal “motor voter” law. The concerns haven’t been addressed sufficiently, the lawsuit said, and now a court needs to intervene and ensure compliance.Full Article: Lawsuit: State isn't complying with federal motor voter law | The Sun News.
Editorials: States Are Falling Short In Providing Voter Access | Brenda Wright and Adam Ambrogi/National Law Journal
Shelley Zelda Small is a 62-year-old Los Angeles resident who believes in voting as a civic duty and has voted in every election since she was 19 years old. So when she moved from Encino, California, to West Hollywood in August 2014, and reported her address change to the Department of Motor Vehicles, she made sure to ask the DMV to update her voter registration as well. But when she arrived at her local polling place last November, she was told she was not on the registration rolls and was turned away – for the first time in her life, Small lost her opportunity to vote. The good news is that, due to a new law approved this last month in California and advocacy by national and California-based voting rights groups, the DMV will be adopting an automated voter registration process that will, in most cases, seamlessly update voter registrations when voters report a move — solving the problem for Small and millions more like her. In mid-November, another state took a major step in the right direction. Alabama, conceding that it had never truly complied with a registration law, settled a case with the U.S. Department of Justice. The agreement made important changes to how the state motor-vehicle agencies support voter registration for eligible Alabama residents. The case is notable because the DOJ has not brought an action against a state under the “motor voter” provision of the National Voter Registration Act since at least 2002. California and Alabama were not alone in needing to improve its registration process. It appears that many states are falling short on their obligations to make voter registration widely accessible at DMVs and other agencies serving the public, according to an extensive investigation by Demos, a public policy group. Potentially tens of millions of eligible voters are being left off the voter rolls as a result.Full Article: Op-Ed: States Are Falling Short In Providing Voter Access | National Law Journal.
Alabama, after more than two decades, finally will be in compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. Secretary of State John Merrill, speaking Monday at the Florence Rotary Club, said when he took office in January, he went to work on bringing Alabama in compliance with the so-called motor voter requirements. He said his goal is to have Alabama in full compliance by mid-2016. “We have three years to be in compliance. My goal is to be in compliance by the middle of next year,” he said. Alabama reached a memorandum of understanding a week ago with the U.S. Department of Justice to make voter registration available to anyone applying for or renewing a driver’s license.Full Article: Merrill: State will be in compliance ahead of schedule - TimesDaily: Local News.
Alabama officials were taken to the woodshed last week when they reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice on implementation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The law includes a provision called “Motor Voter,” which requires states let anyone applying for or renewing driver’s licenses also register to vote. Alabama leaders have lawlessly ignored that mandate since it passed, but were busted in September, when the DOJ threatened to sue. As the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, Principal Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta wrote to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange that the state had failed to comply with Section 5 of the law by not providing registration applications to those seeking licenses. Chastened for the perhaps intentional lapse, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Secretary of State now have to quickly jump through a series of hoops to bring the state into compliance.Full Article: Ala. falls short on voting rights.
Alabama reached a settlement Friday with the Department of Justice and agreed to make changes to comply with the two-decade-old “motor voter” law designed to make it easier for people to register to vote. The settlement agreement comes after the Justice Department said in September that it as planning to sue Alabama after an investigation found that Alabama was not abiding by the requirements of the 1993 law. “Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “We commend the state of Alabama for working quickly and cooperatively with the department to ensure that eligible Alabama citizens can register to vote and update their registration information through motor vehicle agencies, with the convenience they deserve and the ease of access the law requires.”Full Article: UPDATED: Alabama seeks to avoid lawsuit over 'Motor Voter Act' - Enewscourier.com: Local News.
As if our state did not look bad enough after the widely criticized decision to close driver license offices, there now comes the report that Alabama faces a lawsuit from the Department of Justice because it is not in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act – and never has been. That law, commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter Act,” was enacted in May 1993. Politically, that’s a lifetime ago. Jim Folsom Jr. was governor of Alabama. Bill Clinton was president of the United States. The purpose of the law was simple – to make voter registration easier by allowing people to register when obtaining or renewing driver licenses or when visiting state offices that provide public assistance. It was supposed to be a seamless process; individuals did not have to make a special request for registration. But Alabama has essentially ignored the act in many cases, acting as though it were some sort of optional proposal rather than the law of the land. Thus Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, has warned the state that a lawsuit looms.Full Article: Failure to follow ‘Motor Voter’ law indefensible.
Alabama has never fully complied with the federal “motor voter” act designed to allow people to register to vote at driver’s license offices, Secretary of State John Merrill acknowledged this week. Still, Merrill said, he hoped the state could avoid a federal lawsuit by working to implement the law now. “It’s like being pregnant,” Merrill said in a Monday telephone interview. “Either you’re fully in compliance with the law or you’re not in compliance. And we’ve never been compliant.”Full Article: Merrill: Alabama working to finally comply with ‘motor voter’ rules - The Anniston Star: News.
Oklahoma residents who seek public assistance from various state agencies will be provided more opportunities to register to vote under the terms of a settlement agreement announced Thursday that would stave off a potential lawsuit over the state’s compliance with federal voting laws. Details of the settlement were released by the Oklahoma State Election Board and several voting rights advocacy groups that had voiced concerns about Oklahoma’s compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.Full Article: Oklahoma, advocacy groups reach agreement on voter rights - Fairfield Citizen.
National: States are ignoring federal law about voter registration. Here’s why. | The Washington Post
What federal voting rights law, according to the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, is the election statute most often ignored? It’s the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), a law that each year helps millions of citizens with either updating their voter registration records or applying to vote for the first time. Below I explain what the NVRA is, its impact and the challenges it has faced in being put into practice. The NVRA is often referred to as “Motor Voter,” but it is more complex than this implies. The NVRA requires states, among other things, to accept voter registration applications by mail and to offer voter registration services at government offices providing state identification and drivers’ licenses (hence “motor”), armed forces recruitment centers, and government offices providing services to people with low incomes or disabilities. This post focuses on the requirement to register voters at health and social services agencies (or, simply “agencies” in this post). This is a requirement that many states are ignoring or implementing poorly.Full Article: States are ignoring federal law about voter registration. Here’s why. - The Washington Post.
The era of the neighborhood polling place with its paper voter rolls and rickety booths isn’t quite over, but it is well on its way out in California. No tears will be shed here: It’s high time the state entered the 21st century. That’s the opinion of new Secretary of State Alex Padilla as well. Last week he unveiled his second proposal to encourage voter participation in California: a plan to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter and to encourage counties to set up voting centers for their voters to use, regardless of precinct, up to 10 days before election day.Full Article: In voting, will California finally enter the 21st century? - LA Times.
Voting rights activists are threatening to sue North Carolina for failing to adhere to federal registration law. Attorneys for Action NC, Democracy North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, and North Carolina residents forwarded a pre-litigation notice letter on Monday to State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach, N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata and Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Kelly Thomas alleging that the state Department of Motor Vehicles isn’t meeting voter registration obligations set by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The legislation, commonly known as the “Motor Voter Law,” requires voter registration services whenever a resident applies for, renews, or changes their address on a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. DMVs are then required to transmit the information to the appropriate election official within 10 days, or five days if the change of information is within five days of the close of registration.Full Article: Advocates warn North Carolina on missing DMV voter registrations.
A slate of civil rights groups put North Carolina on notice Monday, writing in a pre-litigation letter that the state must meet its voter registration obligations or risk a lawsuit. The letter alleges that the state’s motor vehicle and public assistance agencies are violating legal requirements set out in the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to provide voter registration services to citizens and transmit registration information to election officials. The legislation, signed in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton and commonly referred to as the “motor voter” law, delineates that state motor vehicle agencies must provide voter registration services whenever a person applies for, renews or changes his or her address on a driver’s license or government-issued identification card. It also requires public assistance, disability and military recruiting offices to facilitate voter registration.Full Article: North Carolina Put On Lawsuit Notice Over Declining Voter Registration.
This week, the law firm of Waters and Kraus LLP sent a demand letter to the Texas Secretary of State, informing him of his failure to meet the legal requirements of the National Voter Registration Act, and of his legal liabilities under that federal law. The law in question is Section 20504(a) of Title 52, Chapter 205, United States Code (text taken from uscode.house.gov):
(1) Each State motor vehicle driver’s license application (including any renewal application) submitted to the appropriate State motor vehicle authority under State law shall serve as an application for voter registration with respect to elections for Federal office unless the applicant fails to sign the voter registration application.
(2) An application for voter registration submitted under paragraph (1) shall be considered as updating any previous voter registration by the applicant.
Easy enough to understand, right? If you get a driver’s license, or renew a driver’s license, you get registered to vote, or you get your registration updated, assuming that you are legally eligible to vote.Full Article: Passing the Buck on the Motor Voter Law, Texas Style « Texas Election Law Blog.
It was appropriate that during the same week of commemoration and reenactment of the civil rights movement’s march across the Selma, Alabama, bridge that led to “Bloody Sunday” and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Oregon Legislature took steps to further advance the opportunity to vote. Under the “New Motor Voter” bill passed last week, Oregon, already a leader in encouraging voter participation through its vote-by-mail balloting, will have the most expansive voter registration system in the country. By providing automatic voter registration for any citizen obtaining a driver’s license who’s not already registered, the bill makes it easier for many to register, especially for poorer and younger voters who move a lot. An estimated 300,000 new voters could be added to the nearly 2.2 million currently registered voters.Full Article: Oregon again will lead nation in voters’ rights.
California: Activists say California violates Motor Voter Act, lawsuit threatened | Los Angeles Times
Voting-rights advocates warned Thursday that they may sue California based on claims that the state is not complying with the so-called Motor Voter Act, a federal law mandating that states offer people an easy way to register to vote when they obtain their driver’s licenses. The law firm of Morrison & Foerster sent a “pre-litigation” letter to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on behalf of the League of Women Voters of California, the ACCE Institute, California Common Cause, the National Council of La Raza and several individuals.Full Article: California violates Motor Voter Act, activists say; lawsuit threatened - LA Times.
A coalition of groups that advocate for voters’ rights is alleging that public assistance agencies in Arkansas are failing to provide voter-registration services as required under the National Voter Registration Act. Voting rights groups Demos, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP, Project Vote, and the Proskauer Rose law firm sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Mark Martin advising him that Arkansas agencies must comply with the law or face litigation. The groups offered to work cooperatively with Martin and other state officials to achieve compliance.Full Article: Groups claim Arkansas not complying with voter registration law | Arkansas News.
A federal appeals court on Monday expressed skepticism over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s contention that a federal commission must make voters who register using a federal form provide proof-of-citizenship documents required under state law. Kansas and Arizona are trying to force the federal government to add their requirements to federal voter registration forms mandated by the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the motor voter law. Arguing the case before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kobach said the Election Assistance Commission is required to add the state-specific instructions to the federal form. But Judge Jerome A. Holmes interrupted: “Oh whoa whoa whoa, there’s a big jump there.” Holmes said when the U.S. Supreme Court decided a similar case from Arizona last year, it said states could “request” that the commission add state-specific requirements to the federal form.Full Article: Federal appeals court questions Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship rules | The Wichita Eagle.