Last month, Project Vote and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint to force Louisiana into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and ensure that low-income residents have the opportunity to register to vote. The suit follows in the wake of other successful complaints in both Ohio and Missouri where the number of voters registering at public agencies has ballooned. In Ohio in the first six months of 2010 more than 100,000 low-income residents registered to vote at public assistance offices. That number (17,000 applications per month) is almost a ten-fold increase in the number of registration applications public assistance offices collected before the lawsuit (1,775 per month).

Lawsuits are not always necessary to force compliance, however. Colorado officials worked proactively to bring the state into compliance with the NVRA and as a result, public agency registrations in Colorado increased from just over 3,300 in 2007 to nearly 44,000 in 2010.

While it is critical that public agencies fulfill their obligation to register voters, this alone is not enough. There is still a crucial role for nonprofits to play. Many nonprofit clients receive public assistance and when state agencies do not actively register these potential voters, nonprofits must ensure that their clients nevertheless have an opportunity to register to vote. Even in states that are fully compliant with the NVRA, many eligible voters will still be missed, including individuals served by your organization. Nonprofits can help close this gap by ensuring that your clients have the opportunity to register, participate, and make their voices heard. Get started today!

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