A coalition of groups, including Demos, Project Vote, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), and the NAACP, sent a letter to Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson last week alleging that the state is in violation of federal law requiring voter registration at public assistance offices.
… Nicole Zeitler, an attorney with Project Vote, told the Michigan Messenger that the state is not following the law. “The NVRA requires the state to do more than simply make voter registration ‘available’ at public assistance agencies,” she said. “
Agencies must affirmatively offer a voter registration application form with EVERY application for benefits, recertification, and change of address form, whether or not the client asks for one. Michigan DHS policy, on the other hand—in violation of the NVRA—is to ONLY offer a form IF someone specifically requests one. Furthermore, our field investigations found that only 1 in 4 clients who did request a form received one.”
he letter sent to Johnson’s office refers to interviews done with applicants at public assistance offices around the state and notes:
• More than half of interviewees (75 out of 149) did not notice the voter registration question within the forms they were provided by DHS – regardless of the type of transaction, program, or location/county of the transaction. Of these 75, only six were orally asked by any DHS employee about voter registration. Only three of the 75 received a voter registration application.
• Notwithstanding DHS policy that voter registration application forms are to be provided to clients who check “yes” in response to the voter registration question, fewer than 25% of people who checked “yes” received a voter registration
• No one who was at a DHS office to make an address change saw any voter registration question within their benefits forms, was asked orally if they wanted to register, or was provided with a voter registration application.
Zeitler said several recent court decisions reinforce the group’s interpretation of the NVRA. She also noted that when the NVRA requirements are fully implemented, the result is a sizable increase in new voter registrations.