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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES SOUTH CAROLINA FOR REFUSING TO COMPLY WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued the state of South Carolina for failing to comply with a law that simplifies voter registration. Only 58% of the state's eligible citizens are registered to vote. Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), most states were required by January 1, 1995, to provide voter registration for federal elections at motor vehicle locations and other state agencies as well as through the mail. President Clinton signed the Act in May 1993. South Carolina is only the fourth state to be sued for resisting the law. "This is a common sense law that makes it easier for all Americans to i participate in the democratic process," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Already, states are seeing tremendous increases in the number of people registering to vote." Last year, South Carolina passed legislation to comply with the law, but the former Governor vetoed it. A new Governor took office on January 11, and it appeared that the state's election commission was trying to comply. While the Justice Department was working with the state to try to avoid litigation, the state sued the Justice Department challenging the law. In its papers, filed today in U.S. District Court in Columbia, the Justice Department defended the law and countersued the state as well. "We cannot understand why any elected official would stand in the way of making it easier to register to vote," said Assistant Attorney General Deval L. Patrick. Last month, the Justice Department sued three other states that also resisted compliance. It sued Illinois and Pennsylvania after they failed to pass legislation or take administrative action to comply with the law. It also countersued California, after that state's Governor filed suit challenging the law. In addition to countersuing the state for its refusal to comply, the Justice Department responded to the California suit by asserting that Congress acted within its authority when it passed the law. "Congress has the authority to regulate federal elections, and it used that authority when it passed the law," added Reno. "We now must use the authority that Congress gave us to enforce it." Three states -- Arkansas, Virginia and Vermont -- have been provided additional time to comply in order to amend their state constitutions. Four states -- Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- are exempt from the law because they already had same day or no registration prior to the enactment of the law. "With the exception of a handful of states, every state is complying or working towards complying with the law," added Reno. # # # 95-070