Demos Applauds Chairman Schumer for Urging Attorney General Holder and DOJ to Sue States that Ignore Federal Voter Registration

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tim Rusch, Demos, trusch@demos.org, (212) 389-1407

Demos Applauds Chairman Schumer for Urging Attorney General Holder and DOJ to Sue States that Ignore Federal Voter Registration

WASHINGTON -  This week, Senator
Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chair of the Senate Committee on Rules and
Administration, sent a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder
urging the Department of Justice to investigate state noncompliance with section
7 of the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to offer voter
registration opportunities in public assistance agencies. Citing widespread
evidence of states failing to comply, and underscoring the success of states
that fully implement NVRA, Schumer urged DOJ to sue those unwilling to implement
the law.

In response, Miles Rapoport, President of Demos, which is engaged in a
long-term project to ensure that states fully implement NVRA Section 7, issued
the following statement:

"In his letter to Attorney General Holder, Senator Schumer brings some much
needed attention to the failure of many states to meet the letter of the law and
fully implement the National Voter Registration Act's requirement that states
provide agency-based voter registration. This mandate is designed specifically
to bring more lower-income citizens into the democratic process, providing a
greater political voice for Americans who are under-represented in the general
electorate.

"Experience shows that implementation and enforcement of the law do, in fact,
bring greater numbers of low-income citizens into the political process. As
Senator Schumer points out, our work in North Carolina has led to a six-fold
increase in the number of voter registrations from public assistance agencies.
In addition, recent changes in Virginia led to an almost eight-fold increase in
registrations while Missouri, under a court order to comply with the law, has
registered almost 80,000 voters in its Department of Social Services offices
since August. The state's public assistance agencies registered only 15,500
clients in all of 2005 and 2006 combined.

"The enforcement of this law rests with the Department of Justice, which, as
Senator Schumer points out, launched a vigorous enforcement campaign in the
1990s by filing litigation in states that were noncompliant with the law.
Unfortunately, over much of the last eight years, DOJ shifted focus away from
protecting the rights guaranteed under NVRA. With increased attention brought to
the issue over the last year, DOJ has already started focusing more attention to
the issue, entering into settlement agreements over agency-based registration
implementation with the states of Arizona and Illinois.

"We're hopeful that Senator Schumer's letter, and the example of states such
as North Carolina and Virginia that are working in their citizens' interest and
fully enforcing Section 7, will inspire the Department of Justice to pursue an
even more robust enforcement of Section 7 of the NVRA through its Civil Rights
Division.

"We applaud Senator Schumer for taking this step, and look forward to working
with DOJ in their enforcement efforts."

Background on Demos and NVRA: Through its NVRA Implementation Project, Demos,
in partnership with Project Vote and the Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights
Under Law, has since 2004 assisted several states to quickly and effectively
implement Section 7's agency-based voter registration requirement. For more informationon and research on NVRA section 7,
and to download the letter from Sen. Schumer, visit demos.org.

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A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change. We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance innovative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.

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