WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Executive Director Brian Newby made it harder for Americans in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas to participate in our democracy. Newby’s alarming decision purports to authorize those states to require proof of citizenship documentation from voter registrants who use the National Mail Voter Registration Form (Federal Form). This action directly contradicts a string of federal court decisions, including one by the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the EAC’s prior refusals to permit states to require such documents. The Federal Form, designed to guarantee a “simple means of registering to vote,” already requires applicants to attest to U.S. citizenship under penalty of perjury. Laws that require additional documentation have proven to exclude eligible voters. To date, Kansas has declared more than 30,000 applications “incomplete” because they were not accompanied by documentary proof of citizenship.
The EAC has denied a number of requests to modify the Federal Form with documentary proof of citizenship requirements submitted by multiple states. In two separate lawsuits, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law successfully prevented attempts to overturn or ignore those denials, playing a key role in securing the 2013 victory before the U.S. Supreme Court and the 2014 victory before the Tenth Circuit. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee said, “With voter turnout rates at historic lows in many states across our country, we need our government to take action that makes it easier to participate in our democracy. We urge the Executive Director to withdraw this decision and lift what will otherwise prove to be a substantial barrier to the franchise.”