News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
dlewis33/Getty Images

Arkansas promises to help voters stay registered to settle a federal suit

Arkansas will make its voter rolls more accurate and its registration process smoother in order to settle a federal complaint.

The Justice Department had sued in November, arguing the state was out of compliance in several ways with the so-called motor voter law, which requires drivers' license agencies to make it easier for citizens to register to vote. Such suits have been filed in several other Southern states that have resisted or slow-walked some of the federal mandates.

Only five states have a smaller share of people registered to vote than Arkansas — 56 percent of the 3 million eligible. The settlement could give the number a modest boost.

The state has agreed to make sure that all change-of-address information submitted for driver's license purposes will be used automatically to update the motorist's registration information, as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires.

The government sued after learning that the DMV was only providing such information to election officials when drivers appeared in person to explain they had moved, not when they did so online or by mail. Thousands were disenfranchised by getting dropped from the rolls as a result.

"Since our founding as a republic, the right to vote has distinguished the United States from undemocratic regimes around the world," the head of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, Eric Dreiband, said in announcing the settlement. "Dictators, monarchs, emperors and tyrants have no place here. We rule ourselves. One way we do so is by making sure that voter registration information is accurate."

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

© Issue One. All rights reserved.