Now, Pennsylvania Accused of Violating Voter Registration Law
A lawsuit was filed yesterday by community activist group Action United and the Black Empowerment Project against Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, Secretary of Public Welfare, Gary D. Alexander and Secretary of Health, Dr. Eli N. Avila in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs claim the state is openly disregarding the National Voter Registration Act, which ensures that low-income residents are able to register to vote by forcing all public assistance agencies to offer voter registration services.
“The plaintiffs allege that the majority of clients seeking public assistance services in Pennsylvania are simply not being offered voter registration opportunities, and some public assistance agencies do not even have the voter registration forms available on request,” according to the groups.
The plaintiffs specifically point to the numbers: The number of voter registration applicants has decreased by 93 percent in recent years, from 59,462 in 1995-1996 to 4,179 in 2009-2010.
“This steep decline in voter registrations is particularly significant because it occurred during the same period that both the population of the Commonwealth and the number of applicants for public assistance were increasing.” Food stamp applications have gone from about 1 million to 1.8 million in that period.
Public assistance offices are required to also serve as voter registration agencies, according to the Act, because those served are less likely to find themselves in contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles.