WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with Rhode Island officials to ensure that all public assistance and disability services offices in Rhode Island offer voter registration services to their clients. The agreement is necessary to bring Rhode Island into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
The agreement was filed in conjunction with a lawsuit by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division alleging that Rhode Island violated federal law by failing to provide voter registration services at all public assistance offices and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily aimed at persons with disabilities.
Congress enacted the NVRA in 1993 in part to enhance citizen participation in elections by making voter registration opportunities available at offices that provide essential services, like public assistance and disability services.
“The voting process begins with registration, and 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. “I am pleased that officials in Rhode Island worked cooperatively with the Justice Department to reach this agreement, which will ensure that all citizens who apply for public assistance or disability services in Rhode Island will be able to register to vote as easily and conveniently as possible.”
The two-year agreement, if approved by the district court, commits Rhode Island to undertake a variety of measures, including offering voter registration opportunities to all applicants for public assistance, WIC, rehabilitative services, developmental disabilities services and mental health services; distributing voter registration applications in public assistance and disability services offices and via mail; training employees on NVRA compliance; conducting regular internal compliance audits; and reporting the number of voter registration applications processed by public assistance and disability service offices. In the event compliance is not achieved within two years, the agreement will continue until compliance is reached.
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.