US DOJ suing state for DMV’s non-compliance with Voting Registration Act

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HARTFORD–The U.S. Justice Department has authorized a lawsuit to move forward against the state of Connecticut for voting irregularities.

In a letter sent to Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen on Friday, the Justice Department’s top civil rights attorney, Vanita Gupta, writes that the state did not properly enforce the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires that each “motor vehicle driver’s license application (including any renewal application) submitted to the appropriate state motor vehicle authority under state law also serve as an application for voter registration with respect to elections for federal office unless the applicant fails to sign the voter registration application.”

The act also says that residents should not have to file their personal information twice or provide extra information for voting registration, and that a change of address application for a driver’s license should be enough to change your address for voting as well.

An investigation by the DOJ found “widespread noncompliance” with the act, finding that applications for a Connecticut driver’s license or non-driver identification card generally doesn’t serve as an application for voter registration for federal elections. It was also discovered that change of address applications for licenses did not automatically change one’s voting location.

The DOJ says that the DMV may provide voter registration forms to those who ask for it, but that isn’t enough to comply with the act.

It was also discovered that some DMV offices wouldn’t even accept voter registration forms and transmit them to election authorities.

To determine if you are registered to vote in the appropriate town, click here. To register to vote, click here.

The DOJ says that while it has authorized a lawsuit to move forward, it will delay filing it for a “short period” to see if the state and federal government can come to an agreement to resolve the matter.

You can read the full letter from Vanita Gupta to the Hon. George Jepson here.

Here’s a statement from the office of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill:

The Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office, the Attorney General and the Department of Motor Vehicles received the attached letter from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the motor-voter law. Secretary Merrill welcomes the federal government’s interest in assisting our efforts to enhance Connecticut’s compliance with federal law.

Earlier this year, the Secretary worked with the General Assembly to introduce legislation to enact a streamlined motor-voter registration system at the DMV in Connecticut, which would greatly enhance voter registration performance. Simultaneously, the Secretary of the State, the Governor’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles have been in productive discussions for many weeks on how to realize our objectives without legislation.

Secretary Merrill had a direct quote in the statement, which said, “I have been striving for more than five years to make voting more convenient for the people of Connecticut. That’s why we introduced automatic voter registration this year. I look forward to working with state and federal partners to bring this exciting voting modernization initiative to the state. This letter reminds us of the urgency to get this done.”

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