WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced an agreement to bring the State of Illinois into compliance with federal voting laws that require public assistance agencies to offer their clients the opportunity to register to vote. The agreement provides that the Illinois Department of Human Security (DHS), the primary state agency in charge of disbursing public assistance, must take steps to ensure compliance with federal law within the next 90 days.
Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires employees of public assistance agencies like DHS to offer voter registration applications to clients, to help them fill out the relevant forms, and to transmit any completed applications to appropriate election officials. A Justice Department investigation concluded that many DHS employees were not aware of or complying with these provisions.
The agreement commits DHS to undertake a variety of measures, including: distribution of voter registration applications in its offices via mail and on its website; annual employee training and regular internal audits; and reporting of voter registrations processed at its Family Community Resource Centers to guarantee that they offer clients the opportunity to register to vote. The agreement also authorizes the Justice Department to conduct regular, unannounced investigations of local DHS offices, and in the event compliance is not achieved within strict deadlines, the Justice Department is authorized to seek enforcement of the agreement in federal court.
"The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing federal laws that facilitate the ability of Americans to register to vote at public assistance agencies," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We commend the willingness of Illinois officials to work cooperatively with us to reach this positive and timely result."
The Justice Department in the past has commenced lawsuits to enforce the various provisions of the NVRA, including Section 7. More information about the NVRA and other federal voting laws is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov. Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be called in to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800- 253-3931.