Alabama Departments Fail To Provide Voter Registration Materials When Required By Law

Conservative officials are disenfranchising voters across the country through voter ID laws that could prevent up to 3 million voters from casting a ballot and Florida’s voter purge that continues even though Justice Department officials say it is illegal. Now another state is stopping voters by not providing voter registration information.

According to national voting rights and civil rights groups, Alabama agencies are failing to follow a federal law requiring that state offices provide voter registration materials to residents who seek government assistance.The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 states that all applicants for public assistance must be given voter registration applications, but a coalition including Demos, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Project Vote said their investigation and interviews found that state Department of Human Resources (DHR) and Medicaid offices are not complying with this law.

A DHR spokeswoman said it was the department’s policy to provide voter registration, but in a letter to Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman (R), the coalition outlines how this policy is not being followed:

“According to U.S. Election Assistance Commission data, the number of voter registration applications submitted at Alabama public assistance offices decreased by more than 75 percent from its peak in 1995-1996 to the most recent reporting period of 2009-2010,” the group wrote in its letter to Chapman.

“This drop in voter registrations is particularly significant given that the number of initial food stamp applications in Alabama during the same time frame increased by 60 percent.”

The letter also describes visits to DHR offices in 20 counties by investigators who found half the offices did not have applications available and could not provide them when requested. Three-quarters of the offices provided information only when clients asked. In one case an investigator was told to go to the courthouse to register and another office told an investigator it hadn’t done voter registration in seven to 10 years.

The groups asked Chapman to explain how the state would fix this problem and comply with federal law. If a plan has not been developed in 90 days, they say they will sue the state.