Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Justice Department and the State of New York Settle Claims over Voter Registration Opportunities

The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered an agreement with the State of New York to resolve claims it failed to provide voter registration opportunities required by Section 5 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

Section 5 of the NVRA requires states to provide voter registration opportunities for federal elections when eligible citizens apply for or seek to renew their driver’s license or other identification documents through state motor vehicle offices. Section 5 also requires states to update voter registration records when registrants update the address associated with a driver’s license or other identification document, unless the registrant indicates otherwise.

Justice Department’s investigation found noncompliance with these NVRA requirements in New York State. Applications for New York driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, and identification cards did not consistently serve as applications for voter registration with respect to elections for federal office, as required by the NVRA. Moreover, the procedures by which citizens notified motor vehicle authorities that their address had changed did not consistently serve as notification of a change of address for voter registration purposes, as the NVRA requires.

“Our democracy is strengthened when voter registration is accessible to all eligible citizens,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division commends the State of New York for working with the Division to ensure that New York’s citizens have the opportunity to register to vote and update their voting information easily and conveniently through motor vehicle agencies, as envisioned by the National Voter Registration Act.”

Under the terms of the settlement, New York will fully integrate a voter registration opportunity into all applications for a driver’s license and other identification documents, including in-person and online renewal applications. New York will also ensure that all change of address information submitted for driver’s license purposes will be used to update voters’ address information unless voters decline to update their voter registration. The State has worked diligently throughout the settlement process to bring about NVRA compliance.

“The Motor Voter provision of the NVRA critically supports and enhances our citizens’ access to the democratic process,” said U.S. Attorney Rick Hartunian of the Northern District of New York. “I commend our many state officials for their hard work in reaching this agreement and for their commitment to protecting and promoting voting rights in New York.”

More information about the National Voter Registration Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section. Complaints about voter registration practices may be reported to the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
Updated November 8, 2017