Two months after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division threatened to bring suit against the state of Alabama for not complying with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), state officials have agreed to make sweeping changes in how citizens can register to vote.
An investigation into Alabama’s registration practices found that it was in violation of Section 5 of the NVRA, which requires states to provide citizens with opportunities to register for federal elections when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses and other state IDs. Alabama’s applications currently do not serve that dual purpose, nor do address changes roll over to registration, which is also required under the NVRA.
Per the settlement, Alabama will integrate voter registration into all of its in-person and online ID and driver’s license applications, renewals and change-of-address forms. The state will also contact all eligible voters who are not currently registered at the address listed on their IDs to give them a chance to register. And while the electronic system is being updated to include voter registration, the state agreed to implement an interim paper-based procedure.
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement:
“We commend the state of Alabama for working quickly and cooperatively with the department to ensure that eligible Alabama citizens can register to vote and update their registration information through motor vehicle agencies, with the convenience they deserve and the ease of access the law requires.”
Alabama also came under fire for reducing access to driver’s license offices. Last month, it announced that budget cuts would force the closure of 31 satellite driver’s license offices, many of them in rural counties with predominantly-black residents. After receiving backlash, Governor Robert Bentley decided to send driver’s license examiners to the 31 counties at least one day each month to issue the identification that Alabamans need to vote.