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.
More information about the NVRA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/ . Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.