Federal laws call for state agencies to try to register people to vote when they are distributing aid, such as food stamps and unemployment benefits.
“With the new leadership at the Justice Department, we hope states will be made to meet their obligations,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “If that means taking certain states to court, so be it.”
Its not clear which states, if any, are failing to comply.
A senior Justice Department official last year acknowledged that the agency was surveying as many as 18 states on compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The official refused to say which states or why they were chosen.
A spokesman said the Justice Department would renew enforcement of the act, also called the motor voter law.
“We will aggressively seek compliance at the state and local level – through litigation if necessary – to broaden the ability of Americans to participate in our democracy,” said spokesman Alejandro Miyar.
The act, which took effect in 1995, requires states to offer people a chance to register to vote at all offices that provide public assistance. It was intended to update voter rolls by registering more people and removing those no longer eligible.
At a Rules Committee hearing last month, testimony indicated that some state agencies outside the control of a state election official were not complying with the law, Schumer wrote to Holder.
Inquires by the Justice Department were already yielding improvements in compliance in such states as Nebraska and Arizona, Keith B. Nelson, then principle deputy assistant to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, wrote to Senate Democrats in a July 16, 2008, letter.
But he refused to name other states under DOJ investigation, saying that they were chosen for the probe through “objective methodology” and that revealing them would compromise any lawsuit the department might choose to file.
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