-By Ryan J. Reilly
July 13, 2011- Federal officials are suing the state of Louisiana for failing to provide voter registration forms at public assistance and disability services agencies. The Justice Department said that the state is in violation of section seven of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
Louisiana officials, the feds asserted, have failed to provide voter registration opportunities as required under NVRA because they haven't designated all offices in the state that provide public assistance as voter registration agencies (including the Office of Aging and Adult Services); failed to provide sufficient supplies of voter registration applications at the designated agencies; and failed to train and monitor employees to make sure they assist in processing voter registration forms."
There are 1.17 million Louisiana residents enrolled in Medicaid programs, but only 6,037 voter registration applications were received from public assistance offices from 2009 to 2010, according to data provided to the Election Assistance Commission and included in the Justice Department's lawsuit. That represents just 1.1 percent of all voter registration applications received in 2009 and 2010.
While Louisiana processed over 3.1 million Medicaid applications, renewals and address changes from Jan. 2007 to Jan. 2011 as well as 2.4 million food stamp applications, the agencies registered just 14,725 voter registration applications.
"The voting process begins with registration. Therefore, it is essential that all citizens have unfettered access to voter registration opportunities," DOJ's Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. "The department is committed to enforcing the National Voter Registration Act so that neither income nor disability status stands in the way of equal voter registration opportunities for all citizens."