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August 1993

October 1993

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Citizen's Guide to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993
Viewpoint for the Week of July 26, 1993
Testimony on Major Modification to PRU on Aloha Motors Site
Suggested Goals for Hawaii's Role in Energy and Transportation
Statement before the Zoning Committee on Downtown Heights
Statement on Aloha Motors Site for Convention Center
Congratulations - Neighborhood Board Elections
In Memoriam
Jacqueline Vogt - Kauai's PIO

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS EDUCATION FUND

Citizen's Guide to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993

The 103rd Congress, affirming that the right of citizens to vote is a fundamental right and that it is the duty of the state, local, and federal governments to promote the exercise of that right, passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 The act was signed into law by President Clinton on May 20,1993

Widely known; as Motor Voter, the National Voter. Registration Act is designed to encourage voter registration and to remove discriminatory and unfair: obstacles to voter registration.

This factsheet outlines the basic requirements of the act. States will have some flexibility in implementing the act's provisions. Citizens can work with state and local officials to ensure that the law is carried out effectively and efficiently.

The law applies to all federal elections and will take effect on January 1, 1995 (with an extension of time for those states that must amend their constitutions to implement the act). States will have to pass legislation to implement the provisions of the act. States will also have to pass legislation to make the provisions of the act applicable to state and local elections, unless they choose to maintain a separate registration system for state and local elections -an option that would be expensive, inefficient and possibly discriminatory.

The provisions of this act are in addition to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and do not allow activities that violate that act. Just as jurisdictions covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act must pre-clear any changes in election laws or practices with the U.S. Department of Justice, they also must pre-clear any changes to implement the National Voter Registration Act.

The act requires states to register voters in three specified ways in addition to any other procedures the state uses for voter registration:

  • Simultaneous application for driver's license and voter registration

  • Mail application for voter registration

  • Application in person at designated government agencies, including public assistance agencies and agencies that provide services to people with disabilities.

Election officials must send all applicants a notice informing them of their voter registration status.

DRIVER'S LICENSE APPLICATION REGISTRATION

An application for, or a renewal of, a driver's license will serve as an application for voter registration unless the applicant does not sign the voter registration application portion of the form.

The voter registration portion of the form must include:

  • a statement specifying eligibility requirements for voter registration (including citizenship)

  • an attestation that the applicant meets these requirements

  • the applicant's signature under penalty of perjury

  • a statement that assures confidentiality and the absence of coercion.

The voter registration portion of the form may not require more information than is necessary to ensure that an applicant is eligible to register to vote and to prevent duplicate registrations.

Any driver's license change-of-address form will serve as notification of an address change for voter registration, unless the person states that the address is not for voter registration purposes.

Voter registration applications received at state motor vehicle agencies must be transmitted to the appropriate election office within 10 days, or within 5 days if it is received 5 days or less before the deadline.

MAIL REGISTRATION

Each state must accept and use a mail voter registration application that will be designed by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in consultation with state election officials, or a form that meets FEC guidelines. Such forms can ask for only identifying information and other information about the applicant's previous registration, if any. The form must include the same voter registration information required on the driver's license form. States may not require notarization or other formal authentication. These forms must be freely available for distribution by the government and independent groups that register voters.

A state may require a registrant to vote in person if he or she has registered by mail and has not previously voted in that jurisdiction, except for voters who reside overseas or people with disabilities.

AGENCY REGISTRATION

In addition to Motor Vehicle Bureaus, each state shall designate agencies where voter registration services for federal elections are available. According to the act, agencies that must be designated are:

  • all public assistance offices

  • offices that provide state-funded programs primarily for persons with disabilities

  • military recruiting offices.

Other agencies and offices may be designated at the discretion of the state, such as the following:

  • public libraries

  • public schools

  • government revenue offices

  • city or county clerk's offices

  • unemployment compensation offices

  • federal and non-governmental offices, with their agreement.

At each agency where voter registration is available, the following services must be provided:

  • distribution of voter registration application forms with each of the agency's own forms

  • assistance in filling out the forms unless such help is refused

  • acceptance and transmittal of forms to the elections office (under the same guidelines used for the driver's license registration).

An agency that provides services to disabled persons in their homes must also provide voter registration services in those homes.

A person who provides voter registration services at designated agencies cannot display a political or party affiliation, may not try to influence an applicant's choice of party affiliation or discourage an applicant from registering, or make any statement that registration will affect the availability of services or benefits.

The agency must offer its clients the mail voter registration form (or a combined form for the agency's services and voter registration) with each service provided. The agency also must provide a form asking if the client would like to register to vote, with "boxes" labeled either "YES" or "NO." If neither box is checked it will mean that the client has not applied to register. In public assistance offices, the form also must state that the applicant's decision will not affect the amount of assistance provided.

ADMINISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

The cut-off date for voter registration can be no longer than 30 days before the election. Voter registration officials may use the same postal rate as nonprofit organizations.

States must make a reasonable effort to update voting lists. States may use information provided by the U.S. Postal Service to verify voter address changes. Voters may not be removed from the lists simply for not voting, and any program to ensure an accurate and current voting list must comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The only reasons for removing a voter's name from the official list are:

  • death of the voter

  • at the voter's request, or notification that the voter has registered to vote at another address

  • by reason of criminal conviction or mental incapacity (if specified in state law)

  • when change of address has been confirmed in writing by the applicant.

Election officials may send an address verification notice to voters whom they believe have moved. Voters may verify their addresses by returning the notice or by voting in one of the next two general elections for federal office.

ENFORCEMENT

The U.S. Department of Justice may bring legal action to enforce the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act. Private citizens also may seek enforcement after notifying state election officials so the problem may be corrected before legal action is taken. A court may order corrective action, but may not award money damages or other penalties.

Copyright June 1993 League of Women Voters Education Fund.

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