The National Voter Registration Act: Fifteen Years On

Author(s): 
Estelle H. Rogers
Publication Date: 
November 18, 2009

ACS is pleased to distribute “The National Voter Registration Act: Fifteen Years On,” by Estelle H. Rogers, Consulting Attorney with Project Vote. Ms. Rogers notes that Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in 1993 in order to increase the number of registered citizens and to enhance participation in the electoral process. Yet, she observes, in the 2008 election—fifteen years after the passage of the NVRA—registration problems persisted.

In this issue brief, Ms. Rogers discusses the NVRA’s “significant untapped potential to solve many of the problems we continue to experience in our voter registration system, problems that have profound consequences on Election Day.” In particular, she focuses on Sections 7 and 8 of the NVRA. Section 7 requires that social service agencies and offices serving peoples with disabilities provide voter registration services similar to those provided by motor vehicle offices. Ms. Rogers notes that this section has been unsuccessful due to widespread non-compliance, and recommends, among other things, increased enforcement and clarification by the Department of Justice as well as additional efforts on the part of states to expand registration efforts. Section 8 addresses election administration and voter list maintenance and, according to Ms. Rogers, has been widely disregarded as states remove voters for the rolls without following the NVRA’s safeguard to minimize the risk of wrongful removal. Ms. Rogers again offers numerous recommendations including that the Department of Justice provide additional clarification and enforcement of this provision. She also describes possible statutory changes also to address this issue. She concludes that the “NVRA remains a powerful tool that should not be ignored. If it were – finally – vigorously enforced and properly interpreted, this . . . statute could well be the transformative law that its authors envisioned.”