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Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Justice Department Settles Remainder of Voter Registration Case with State of New York for Violating Rights of Students with Disabilities

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced a court-approved consent decree which resolves a lawsuit against the state of New York and its public university systems for their failure to provide voter registration services at offices serving students with disabilities at each public university and college campus in New York State. 

"The voting process begins with registration and it is essential that all citizens, including individuals with disabilities, have unfettered access to voter registration opportunities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  "This decree ensures that college and university students with disabilities throughout New York State will be able to register to vote as easily and conveniently as possible."

The lawsuit, filed on April 15, 2004, in the U.S. District Court in Syracuse, N.Y., alleged that the state violated Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which in part requires that voter registration services be provided at offices that provide state-funded programs primarily for persons with disabilities. The United States asserted the NVRA applied to disability services offices at New York’s public higher education campuses and that the state violated the NVRA by failing to provide voter registration services to students with disabilities at those offices.  In March 2010, the court agreed with the United States and issued an order upholding the United States’ position. The court gave the parties time, however, to negotiate an appropriate remedy to the violation, which resulted in the court-approved consent decree announced today.

Under the consent decree, by the start of the 2010-2011 school year, disability services offices at each public university and college campus in the state will provide voter registration services to students with disabilities.  The decree also provides a program for training, oversight, reporting and publicity to ensure continued NVRA compliance at New York’s public universities and colleges. 

Congress enacted the NVRA in 1993 in part to enhance citizen participation in elections, including those citizens with disabilities who, because of their disabilities, faced discriminatory barriers to voter registration.

Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be reported to the Justice Department at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the NVRA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting . Additional information regarding other laws regarding citizens with disabilities may be found at www.ada.gov.

Press Release Number: 
Updated August 10, 2015