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LWV: National Voter ''Rejection'' Week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kelly Ceballos
September 15, 2004
www.lwv.org

NATIONAL VOTER "REJECTION" WEEK
League of Women Voters Highlights Voter Registration Problems

Washington, D.C. - ''This week marks National Voter Registration Week,'' notes Kay J. Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. ''The League and many other organizations and governmental entities observe this week as a means of drawing attention to the importance of voter registration and to encourage all citizens to register to vote so they can participate in the November elections.''

"We are deeply concerned, however, by problems that persist with voter registration systems in many states and localities. This week may actually mark National Voter 'Rejection' Week."

"Investigations after the 2000 elections revealed that between 1.5 million voters and 3 million voters were not able to cast a ballot because of registration problems. As we near the 2004 election, many of these problems have not been fixed. With reportedly high numbers of registration applications for 2004, these problems are especially significant."

"There is more work to be done after the citizen fills out a voter registration application. The application must be acted on by the appropriate government entity in a timely manner and in a way that enfranchises eligible voters. Below we note key reasons why voter registration applications are not being properly processed, why eligible voters are being erroneously rejected and how to alleviate these problems by following the example of states that have made progress in addressing these concerns."

1. The voter registration agency has a backlog of voter registration applications. In a year when voter registration efforts have been vigorous, some registrars have not been able to keep up. States and localities need to add personnel who can clear the backlog and ensure that all applications are processed in time. For those whose applications might be rejected for procedural reasons, they need to be given sufficient time to correct their applications before the relevant deadlines.

2. The voter did not complete every question on the registration form, even though elsewhere on the form the applicant signed an attestation swearing that he or she meets the requirements to vote, including citizenship and age. New forms often have a check box for citizenship, for example, and sometimes that box is not checked. In some counties, election officials simply return such applications to the voter and keep no record regarding the application. In one Minnesota county, 60 percent of all voter registration applications were being rejected until the state legislature corrected the problem through legislation. Ohio recently issued a directive changing state policy to require county officials to register voters who signed the attestation. Other jurisdictions allow voters to correct the deficiency at the polls on Election Day.

3. A voter's registration application is not transferred in time from the driver's license agency or other agency to the voter registrar. Although the National Voter Registration Act is over ten years old, some jurisdictions still experience problems in getting the applications from one agency to another. Additional personnel could help assure that registration applications are transferred.

4. Social service agencies are not providing voter registration opportunities. In many states, agencies that are required to provide voter registration opportunities simply are not doing so effectively.

5. Registration agencies are improperly rejecting applications because of confusion over the use of Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers. Changes due in most states in 2006 provide for the use of these numbers to help track voters in the voter registration system. Some states are acting prematurely and rejecting applications that don't provide the numbers, or are otherwise misusing this data.

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