The 1993 National Voter Registration Act was supposed to make democracy more democratic. When people applied to renew their driver’s licenses or to receive public assistance, they could be given the opportunity to register to vote. That seemed simple enough and a way to get more people, particularly more underrepresented people, on voter rolls.
But in North Carolina, that “Motor Voter” law is showing declining voter registration applications. In 2012, there were more than 40,000 voter registration applications sent to elections offices in North Carolina from agencies providing public assistance. The figure was similar to those in 2008 and 2011. But in 2013, the number dropped to 18,758, and in 2014 it dropped to 13,340.
So now in federal court, some pro-voting, pro-participation watchdogs, including Democracy North Carolina, are accusing the state of failing to register eligible voters.
State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach says that she’s surprised by the suit and that she has worked to straighten out what she believes may be a problem with coding on paperwork. But if that’s the case, this issue should have been settled long ago.
Bob Hall, the head of Democracy North Carolina, thinks it’s a case of state agencies, now in the control of Republicans, dragging their feet. So far, nothing has come to light to discredit that position.