The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana on Tuesday for failing to provide voter registrations services at its public assistance offices, in violation of federal law.
In an effort to increase voter registration, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, which requires states to designate all areas which provide public assistance benefits, such as disability benefits, Medicaid and food stamps, as voter registration areas. When people apply for the benefits, or seeks to modify or renew their benefits, the law requires that they be asked if they would like to vote, and be supplied the appropriate forms.
According to the lawsuit, the state has regularly failed both to designate the facilities as voter registration areas and provide the appropriate services. In 2009-10, the number of individuals in Louisiana receiving benefits from public assistance agencies reached a 10-year low, despite the recession-induced spike of people receiving benefits.
“This severe disparity is probative of Louisiana’s unlawful failure to offer the voter registration opportunities required by the (National Voter Registration Act),” the Justice Department stated in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
The lawsuit would require the state to create a remedial plan to provide these services and create a monitoring program to ensure compliance. It would also require the state to offer voter registration opportunities to all individual who applied for public benefits during the past four years.