Suit Eases Path for Public Assistance Recipients to Register to Vote
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ATLANTA – Georgia has agreed to make it easier for people who receive food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance to register to vote, in a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
“This is what government in a democracy should be doing,” said Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, “making sure that as many eligible people as possible have the ability to participate. We’ve seen far too many attempts to keep people away from the ballot box this year. With this settlement, at least, Georgia is moving in the right direction.”
The suit charged Georgia was violating the National Voter Registration Act, popularly known as the “motor voter act.” A provision of the law requires states to offer opportunities to register to vote at all offices that offer public assistance.
Under the agreement, Georgia will allow residents to register whenever they apply for, renew or change an address for an assistance program, regardless of whether they come to an office or contact an office over the phone, by mail, or over the Internet.
According to the lawsuit, voter registrations through assistance agencies in Georgia had dropped off drastically since the motor voter law went into effect in 1995. In the first year of the new law, over 100,000 people applied to register through assistance agencies. By 2009, only 4,430 did, even though 70,000 Georgians a month were applying for food stamps alone.
The coalition that brought the suit also included the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Demos, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Project Vote, the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the law firm Dechert LLP.
To read the settlement agreement, go to: