How to Make Voter Registration Accessible to All Citizens

Cross-posted at Project Vote's Voting Matters Blog

After the 2008 election, voter registration has become a focal point for legislators and advocates from all ends of the spectrum. Whichever way it is sliced, the number of registered eligible voters has still declined since 2004. As multiple problems have been cited as the cause for lowered registration rates (including mobility issues, unequal access to registration opportunities, voter caging, and even so-called apathy), voting rights advocates as well as legislators have been vocal about their solutions.

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El Paso County, Colo. Exemplifies Voter Reg. Turnaround for Low Income Citizens

More than fifteen years after the passage of the National Voter Registration Act, few states are complying with the law's requirement that voter registration services are provided to those who apply for public assistance. Though highly successful in the first two years the NVRA was implemented, in 1995-1996, registrations through public assistance agencies have steadily declined, and had fallen by 79 percent nationwide in 2007-2008. Project Vote and other voting rights organizations have been working to bring several states into compliance with this key provision of the NVRA, and--as a last resort--have been forced to bring lawsuits in several states to ensure that low-income public assistance clients have access to voter registration services as required by law.

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New Project Vote Report Evaluates Fifteen Years of the NVRA

Cross-posted at Project Vote's Voting Matter's Blog

By Michael McDunnah

Signed into law by President Clinton in May of 1993, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was hailed by some as "the final achievement of the 1960's voting rights revolution," and proponents estimated that it would add 50 million Americans to the voting rolls. However, in a comprehensive new report released today by Project Vote, The NVRA at Fifteen: A Report to Congress, voting rights attorney Estelle Rogers finds that lack of enforcement, failures of state and federal leadership, and restrictive court decisions have left the full potential of the NVRA unrealized, and have left millions of disenfranchised Americans still awaiting the promise of a truly inclusive democracy.

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Modernizing our Voter Registration System

As I've mentioned in a number of recent posts, I think that one of the most important projects for the progressive youth community in the 111th Congress is the passage of major voter registration reform legislation.

As I've written many times in the past, voter turnout is about access, not apathy.  There are no numbers yet for 2008, but in 2004, 81.6% of all registered 18 - 29 year olds voted.  The problem is not that young people register and then forget or abstain from voting; the problem is that, due to a variety of factors, young people are registered in far fewer numbers than older portions of the electorate.

Today, the Millennial generation is in a position to push for broad policy changes - on energy and climate issues, education issues, and more - thanks in large part to the massive youth turnout and their key role in electing President Obama.  Retaining that power beyond one congressional session or Presidential term will require a repeat performance at the polls year in and year out.   Reforming our voter registration laws and removing so many of the barriers that keep young Americans registered at low rates is key to solidifying this newfound political power.  So I'm super excited to report that a coalition seems to be forming to push forward Voter Registration Modernization legislation during the current Congress.

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Conservatives Claim Enforcing Voting Rights Is Too Hard

The Tampa Tribune criticized ACORN in an opinion piece that ran on Saturday July 19th for putting Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning on notice that the state of Florida was not in compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. According to the act, voter registration assistance must be provided not only at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) but at all agencies that provide public assistance (such as Medicaid and food stamps). A recent study released by Project Vote, ACORN, and Demos showed that Florida's percentage of registrations from public-assistance agencies dropped from 9% in 1995 and 1.8%  in 2007.

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