FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, JULY 6, 1995

CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES VIRGINIA FOR REFUSING TO COMPLY WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued the state of Virginia to ensure that it would comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) -- a law that simplifies voter registration and has led to an increase in registration in states across the country. Under the NVRA, states are required to provide voter registration for federal elections at motor vehicle locations and other state agencies, as well as through the mail. Unlike most states which had to comply by January 1, 1995, Virginia was granted another year in order to amend its state constitution. Earlier this year, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that would have brought the state into substantial compliance by the January 1, 1996 deadline. However, Governor Allen vetoed the bill. In May, the state sued the Justice Department alleging that the law is unconstitutional. Three U.S. District Courts and a federal Court of Appeals have rejected similar suits by other states and upheld the law's constitutionality. "This is a common sense-law that makes it easier for all Americans to participate in the democratic process," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Already, millions of Americans across the country are benefiting from this law -- one day millions of Virginians will too." In just half a year, the NVRA has boosted voter registration in many states. Nearly 2 million citizens have registered across America since the law went into effect January 1. For example, in Georgia, 180,000 people registered between January and March -compared to only 85,000 all last year. In Alabama, 43,000 people registered to vote in the first three months of this year -compared to only 23,000 people during the same time last year. Today's countersuit seeks an order requiring the state to comply with the law on January 1, 1996. "We cannot understand why any elected official would stand in the way of making it easier to register to vote," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "It is unfortunate that taxpayer dollars would be wasted fighting a legal battle that has lost in the courts time and time again." When Congress passed the law, it recognized that one-third of all adult Americans move during each two-year Congressional election cycle. In cases where voters move shortly before registration deadlines, they can find it difficult to re-register in time at their new address. Voter registration offices are often inaccessible or closed. As a result, many eligible, willing voters are unable to vote. Although almost every state has worked to comply with the law, the Justice Department has been forced to sue a handful of states for refusing, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, South Carolina and Michigan. U.S. District Courts in Illinois,

California and Pennsylvania upheld the constitution-ality of the NVRA and ordered those states to comply. Pennsylvania decided not to appeal the decision. Illinois lost on appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and then decided to comply with the law. California chose to appeal but has been ordered to comply by the Ninth Circuit while the case is pending. The District Court in South Carolina has yet to issue an opinion and the Michigan case has yet to be heard. In addition to Virginia, Arkansas and Vermont were provided additional time to comply and 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. # # # 95-376