MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama could see more low-income citizens signing up to vote now that voter rights groups and state officials have reached an agreement ensuring people who apply for social services also receive voter registration applications.
The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and others announced the agreement Tuesday. It calls for the state Medicaid Agency and the state Department of Human Resources to automatically distribute voter registration applications to people when they apply for social services, renew the services or file a change of address.
Citizens whose transactions are completely remotely, such as by computer, will be mailed voter registration applications.
Project Vote official Sarah Brannon said the agreement provides low-income residents with access to the voter registration that's guaranteed under the federal motor voter law.
Secretary of State Jim Bennett said Alabama needed to do a few things to come into compliance with the motor voter law and the agreement accomplishes that without having potentially costly litigation. "When you boil it down, it's about compliance with a federal mandate," Bennett said.
The agreement resulted from more than a year of negotiation between the voter rights groups and the state. The agreement calls for Bennett's office and the NAACP to monitor compliance.
"We look forward to working with the agencies while the agreement is in place to make voter registration a standard component of public assistance agency programs," said Bob Kengle, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The groups said litigation in other states has resulted in an increase in voter registration by low-income residents. Ohio settled a suit over the issue in 2009, and voter registration applications from public assistance agencies increased from an average of 25,000 per year to more than 200,000 per year.
Alabama's agreement runs through November 2016, which is when the next presidential election will occur.