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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES THREE STATES FOR REFUSING TO COMPLY WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued the states of California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania for refusing to comply with a new law that makes it easier for Americans to register 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. "This is a common sense law that already is making voting more available to all Americans," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "States have seen tremendous increases in the number of people registering to vote in the 23 days since the law took effect." Last May, the Justice Department notified all the states of their obligations under the law and since that time has been working with state officials to ensure that they voluntarily comply. "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. Neither Illinois nor Pennsylvania passed legislation or took any administrative action to comply with the law. In California, where registration forms already have been printed, Governor Wilson vetoed legislation. In December, California filed suit against the federal government challenging the constitutionality of the law. In addition to countersuing the state for its refusal to comply, the Justice Department today also responded to the California suit by asserting that Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate federal elections. "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. Earlier this month Reno indicated that South Carolina also was resisting the law. At the time, the state had passed legislation which the former Governor vetoed. A new Governor has taken office, and it appears that the state's election commission may be trying to comply with the NVRA. The Justice Department is closely monitoring the situation to determine if litigation is needed to ensure compliance. Additionally, Michigan passed legislation which was signed into law on January 10. On that same day, however, the Governor signed an Executive Order which effectively prevents agencies from providing the voter registration services. The Justice Department is also monitoring activity in that state.

"With the exception of a handful of states, every state is complying or working towards complying with the law," stated Reno. However, she added, "We are monitoring every state to ensure full compliance and will not hesitate to file additional suits against other states that fail to comply with the law." # # # 95-038