The federal government sued Louisiana on Tuesday for alleged violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
Federal officials alleged in the suit that most people receiving food stamps, disability payments and Medicaid aren’t routinely offered voter registration at their provider agencies.
Justice Department attorneys wrote U.S. District Judge James J. Brady, of Baton Rouge, that the Louisiana secretary of state, Department of Health and Hospitals, and Department of Children and Family Services should be ordered into compliance.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler did not return a call seeking comment. His office’s elections commissioner, Angie Rogers, said she was not authorized to comment.
Others denied the state is violating the NVRA.
DHH Press Secretary Lisa Faust said for both DHH and DCFS: “While we haven’t seen the details of this lawsuit, we are in compliance with the spirit and the letter of the law.”
The Justice Department alleges in its suit that the NVRA requires Louisiana “to designate as voter registration agencies ‘all offices in the state that provide public assistance,’ as well as ‘all offices … providing services to persons with disabilities.’ ”
An example of the state’s alleged noncompliance with federal voter-registration law, Justice Department attorneys said, is its “failure to designate DHH’s Office of Aging and Adult Services as a voter registration agency.”
State officials also do not stock voter registration applications at many other offices that provide assistance to the needy or disabled, federal attorneys alleged.
That is despite the fact that 25.8 percent of the state’s population was enrolled in Medicaid programs in January, the federal suit alleged.
In the past 10 years, the Justice Department alleged, the slice of Louisiana’s public-assistance beneficiaries filing voter registration applications through public assistance offices ranged from a high of four percent in 2005-06 to a low of 1.1 percent in 2009-10.
Among people receiving disability payments and services over the past decade, the sliver that registered to vote through their assistance offices ranged from a high of 0.6 percent in 2001-02 to a low of 0.2 percent in 2009-10, the federal suit alleged.
Justice Department attorneys wrote that “Louisiana has processed more than 3.1 million Medicaid applications, renewals, and address changes from January 2007 to January 2011.”
During the same period, the federal attorneys said, state officials processed more than 2.4 million applications and eligibility re-determinations for food stamps.
But only 14,725 voter registration applications were received through those offices over that span, the Justice Department added.
“This severe disparity (demonstrates) Louisiana’s unlawful failure to offer the voter registration opportunities required by the NVRA,” the suit alleges.