If you’ve renewed your driver’s license, you’ve probably encountered this 1993 law:
After years of deliberate neglect, the Justice Department is finally beginning to enforce the federal law requiring states to provide voter registration at welfare and food stamp offices. The effort not only promises to bring hundreds of thousands of hard-to-reach voters into the electorate, but it could also reduce the impact of advocacy organizations whose role in registering voters caused such a furor in 2008.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as the motor-voter law, is well-known for making it possible to register to vote at state motor vehicle offices. However, the law also required states to allow registration at offices that administer food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, disability assistance and child health programs. States were enthusiastic about the motor-vehicle section of the law, and millions of new voters got on the rolls while getting a driver’s license. But registration at public assistance offices proved far less popular.
In part, that was because of additional paperwork at those offices, but in many states, Republican officials did not want to provide easy entry to the voting rolls for low-income people whom they considered more likely to vote Democratic. The Bush administration devoted its attention to seeking out tiny examples of voter fraud and purging people from the rolls in swing states.
The DOJ is going to enforce every section of the law, instead of just the popular sections.
There’s the standard major-media gratuitous slam on A.C.O.R.N., who “caused such a furor” in 2008. The way I remember it, Republican operatives carefully planned and executed a hit on A.C.O.R.N. beginning in 2008 and major media, including the NYTimes, went along with it like sheep, but whatever.
But the best reason to applaud the Justice Department’s new posture is that it will bring more voters into public life. When advocacy groups sued Ohio and Missouri to force their public assistance offices into complying, huge groups of new voters surged onto the rolls — more than 100,000 in Ohio, and more than 200,000 in Missouri. Nationwide enforcement by the Justice Department could add millions more. The more people who have access to the ballot, the better the country will be.
That’s a coy use of “advocacy groups” by the NYTimes. Who were these noble “advocacy groups” who sued to enforce the federal law that state Republican election officials and the Bush DOJ simply decided not to follow?
Both complaints were brought by A.C.O.R.N.
In the complaints, A.C.O.R.N submits that they were allocating scarce resources registering voters outside welfare offices. They were doing that because they could not persuade state election officials to follow the law, inside welfare offices. They finally sued, and won.