Two activist organizations today announced that they have sued three state agencies, saying they have failed to do their duty to offer voter registration forms to public assistance applicants. The Pittsburgh-based Black Political Empowerment Project and the Philadelphia-based group Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of U.S. District Court Thursday, according to a press release. The complaint names the secretaries of the Department of State, Department of Public Welfare and Department of Health as defendants, and seeks to force them to comply with the National Voter Registration Act.
That 1993 law, according to the complaint, demands that states offer registration help to those seeking public assistance and suffering from disabilities. During the years 1995 and 1996, the complaint said, the state’s public assistance offices registered 59,462 voters, but in 2009 and 2010 — the last years of Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration — they logged just 4,179 new voters. Spot checks conducted by the organizations this year suggest the departments’ efforts aren’t improving under Gov. Tom Corbett, according to the complaint. The organizations visited Philadelphia and Allegheny County assistance offices and found “no voter registration applications on site at all,” it said.