WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana and a number of Louisiana state agencies and officials alleging that the state has violated its obligations under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
The complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, alleges that Louisiana has violated the NVRA by failing to provide voter registration services at offices providing public assistance and serving persons with disabilities in Louisiana. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Louisiana officials have not routinely offered voter registration forms, assistance and services to the state’s eligible citizens who apply, recertify or provide a change address for public assistance or disability services, or benefits.
“The voting process begins with registration. Therefore, it is essential that all citizens have unfettered access to voter registration opportunities,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to enforcing the National Voter Registration Act so that neither income nor disability status stands in the way of equal voter registration opportunities for all citizens.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring that the defendants have failed comply with the requirements of Section 7 of the NVRA, and requiring Louisiana to take all necessary steps to come into compliance with federal law. The suit seeks to require Louisiana to effectively publicize the required voter registration opportunities and provide the court with a remedial plan that will ensure future compliance.
Congress enacted the NVRA in 1993 in part to enhance citizen participation in elections by making voter registration opportunities readily available and accessible to the largest possible segment of the American public. In addition to requiring that voter registration be offered at motor vehicle offices and by mail, the NVRA also mandates that states offer voter registration through agencies that provide essential services to citizens with disabilities and low income citizens. Congress found that if it did not require states to offer voter registration at public assistance and disability services agencies, it would exclude a large segment of American citizens from having convenient opportunities to participate in our democracy.
JEFFERSON CITY -- A long-standing debate between Republicans and Democrats over voting issues took another turn today as the Department of Justice dropped a 2005 federal lawsuit that had been filed against Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.The suit alleged that Carnahan didn't follow federal law by failing to force counties to properly update their voting rolls, leaving the possibility that ineligible voters could cast ballots. Carnahan had called the suit a waste of time, and noted that there were plenty of procedures in place to protect the voting process.The suit got tied up in the national controversy over the firing of several U.S. attorneys by former President George W. Bush. Then-U.S. attorney Todd Graves questioned the merits of the suit.Carnahan today praised the decision to drop the suit:“I am pleased the Department of Justice has decided to drop this lawsuit. Since it was originally filed in 2005, I have maintained that the lawsuit is unnecessary, unwise and costly.The decision to drop this suit is long overdue. A prior ruling found my office not only complied with federal law but also went beyond its requirements through our many efforts to assist county clerks and election boards with their responsibilities.Missourians can rest assured that I will continue to work with local election officials to ensure fair and accurate elections in our state.”