FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MONDAY, JUNE 12, 1995

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

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES MICHIGAN FOR REFUSING TO COMPLY WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued the state of Michigan for failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) -- a law that simplifies voter registration and has helped increase registration in other states. Under the 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 law into effect in May 1993. "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 common sense law -one day millions of Michigan's citizens will too." Many states have already experienced tremendous increases in voter registration as a result of the NVRA. Across America nearly 2 million citizens have registered in the five months since the law went into effect. For example, in Alabama, 43,000 people registered to vote in the first three months of this year -- compared to only 23,000 people the same time last year. In Georgia, 180,000 people registered between January and March -compared to only 85,000 all last year. 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. Last January, Michigan's legislature passed legislation to comply with the law. On the same day, the Governor ordered certain state agencies not to comply. The Justice Department has tried to work with state officials to avoid litigation, but realized that it would be necessary to ask the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids for an order compelling state compliance. "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. "It is unfortunate that taxpayer dollars would be wasted fighting a legal battle that has lost in the courts time and time again." Earlier this year, the Justice Department sued Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and South Carolina for refusing to comply with the NVRA. U.S. District Courts in Illinois,

California and Pennsylvania upheld the constitutionality of the law and ordered those states to comply. Pennsylvania decided not to appeal the decision. Illinois lost on appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and then decided to comply. California chose to appeal but has been ordered to comply by the 9th Circuit Court while the case is pending. The District Court in South Carolina has yet to issue an opinion. 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. # # # 95-328