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Friday, November 13, 2015

State of Alabama Agrees to Resolve Claims of National Voter Registration Act Violations

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

Section 5 of the NVRA, also known as the “motor voter” provision, requires states to provide voter registration opportunities for federal elections when people apply for or seek to renew driver’s licenses or other identification documents through state motor vehicle offices. 

The department’s investigation, conducted by the Civil Rights Division, found widespread noncompliance with the requirements of Section 5 of the NVRA in the state of Alabama.  Applications for Alabama driver’s licenses, learner’s licenses, identification cards and vessel licenses did not serve as applications for voter registration with respect to elections for federal office, as required by the NVRA.  Moreover, the procedures by which citizens notify motor vehicle authorities that their address has changed did not serve as notification of a change of address for voter registration purposes, as the NVRA requires.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “We commend the state of Alabama for working quickly and cooperatively with the department to ensure that eligible Alabama citizens can register to vote and update their registration information through motor vehicle agencies, with the convenience they deserve and the ease of access the law requires.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Alabama will fully integrate a voter registration opportunity into all applications for driver’s licenses and other identification documents, including renewal applications, both in person and online.  Alabama will also ensure that change of address information submitted for driver’s license purposes will be used to update voters’ address information unless the voter declines to update her voter registration.  In order to provide a voter registration opportunity for Alabama residents who did not receive the opportunity to register when last applying for or renewing a driver’s license or other identification document, Alabama will contact all eligible voters who are not currently registered to vote at the address associated with a driver’s license or other identification document.  Alabama is beginning to implement interim procedures that will increase voter registration opportunities while the state integrates voter registration into its electronic motor vehicle systems.

“It is essential for every citizen in our democracy to have a full opportunity to exercise his or her right to vote,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama.  “The agreement concluded today between the Justice Department and the state of Alabama moves our state forward towards compliance with the ‘motor-voter’ Act, which was enacted in 1993, and will make it easier for citizens to register and maintain their voter registration while applying for and renewing drivers' licenses.  We appreciate the dedication from our colleagues in the Civil Rights Division as well as Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s commitment to achieving compliance with section 5 of the NVRA.”

“I would like to commend the state of Alabama for their good faith negotiations and for ensuring full implementation of the ‘motor voter’ provision,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama.  “I would also applaud the commitment by the Secretary of State, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Attorney General and the Governor for their diligent efforts, committing resources and designing software to provide access to voter registration through the driver’s license process.”

“There is no more fundamental right of citizenship in our democracy than the right to vote,” said U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown of the Southern District of Alabama.  “I am pleased that the state of Alabama has taken steps to come into compliance with the requirements of the law as it relates to the National Voter Registration Act.”

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 voter registration practices may be reported to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section at 1-800-253-3931.

Alabama MOU

Updated August 22, 2016