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Friday, May 8, 2015

Voting rights groups accuse N.C. of breaking federal voter registration law

Posted by on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 12:21 PM

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Between 2007 and 2012, public agencies in North Carolina helped to register an average of 38,400 residents annually. Since Gov. Pat McCrory took office in 2013, that number has plunged to about 16,000.

That's one of several troubling allegations made Friday by voting rights groups accusing the state of failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Perhaps better known as the "motor voter" law, it requires that public assistance agencies, disability services agencies and motor vehicle offices offer to assist with voter registration.

In a letter to N.C. State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach and Aldona Wos, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, lawyers representing Democracy North Carolina, Action N.C. and the A. Philip Randolph Institute gave the state 90 days to comply with the federal law or face a lawsuit.

"North Carolina thrives when all of our voices are heard," said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina. "Helping every qualified person register to vote should be a top priority for the state. It also happens to be the law."

Voting rights advocates say the federal law is important to enforce because it encourages voter participation from some of the state's poorest residents.

The groups also cited an investigation conducted last fall at 19 public offices in 11 counties in which voting rights advocates found that approximately 75 percent of about 200 individuals who visited public assistance offices were not provided an opportunity to register.

"North Carolina should be doing everything in its power to provide low income individuals the opportunity to register," said Catherine Flanagan, a senior attorney for Project Vote. "Public assistance agencies are a vital part of our voter registration system because they connect with Americans who are less likely to register through other means."

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