National Voter Registration Act
Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to create a variety of mechanisms to make it easier for citizens to obtain, complete and submit voter registration applications. This federal civil rights law requires designated state-funded service agencies to offer voter registration services to clients who are applying for benefits, recertifying their eligibility or whenever a client changes an address. Details about designated agencies are available in "Sec. 1973gg-5 Voter registration agencies" on the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division homepage.
Some agencies that are covered under this law include: Medicaid; vocational & rehabilitation agencies; special education agencies; commissions for the deaf and the blind; para-transit providers; independent living centers; and disability-specific service providers such as UCP, American Red Cross, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Epilepsy Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Many agencies under contract with DHS are designated as voter registration agencies by virtue of the NVRA. As required by Section 7, Pennsylvania has designated as “voter registration agencies” all offices administering programs “primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities.” [Sec. 7(a)(2) of the NVRA] This includes offices offering the following benefits, among others:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP formerly known as Food Stamps)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- State-funded assistance programs for people with disabilities
Recommended Procedures to achieve compliance with the National Voter Registration Act
Offer clients voter registration during all required points of contact and during phone, mail and internet transactions. [Section 7(a)(6)(A)(ii)]
Clients should be offered voter registration services during the initial application, recertification and change of address procedures [Section 7(a)(6)(A)] in the following ways:
- Include a postpaid voter registration application and declination form in all mailings of applications for benefits, applications for recertification and address change materials.
- If a client uses the telephone to request an application, a recertification or an address change they should automatically be mailed a declination form and a voter registration application.
- Application, recertification or change of address materials that are accessed via the internet should include the declination question in the application or a link to a declination form that must be printed out, signed, and returned. If the application, recertification or address change can be transmitted electronically to the agency without the applicant’s signature, the client must be able to print out a hard copy of the declination form to sign and return to the agency. If the client chooses to register, a link to a voter registration application should be provided. The client should be instructed to print out the registration application, complete it and mail it to the appropriate election official or back to the agency for transmittal.
Offer voter registration in office waiting rooms.
Offices should offer all adults in the waiting room an opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration address by an NVRA Coordinator or the receptionist. Offering this to all persons in the waiting room provides several benefits:
- It ensures that staff have inquired about voter registration and offered assistance to each person, even if they have completed forms at home or in the waiting room.
- It helps increase the efficiency of the intake process if the clients have spent their time in the waiting room beginning to fill out the voter registration application instead of starting to do so with the staff during the appointment.
- Providing voter registration in the waiting rooms may reach many citizens who are accompanying clients and are even part of their household, but who are not seeing agency staff that day.
NOTE: Staff members working with clients are still required, per the NVRA, to review the voter registration question with clients and complete a (sample) NVRA Declination Form in a thoughtful personal manner. Time can be saved if interested clients were assisted in the waiting room. Clients should be told that they can hand their applications into the agency staff when completed and that they will be provided assistance with the form, if desired.
Move voter registration questions to the front of all client interviews.
This successfully separates the voter registration question from the benefit eligibility process and helps ensure that caseworkers offer the service.
- Encourage clients to complete voter registration applications on site.
- Clients are more likely to complete and transmit the voter registration application while in the office rather than after leaving the office.
- Integrate declination form and voter registration application into benefit applications, recertification and change of address forms.
- Another option is to simply integrate the (sample) NVRA Declination Form and voter registration application. This step helps ease paperwork fatigue and ensures that the declination form is included in client packages. Several other states have implemented these options (Iowa and Oregon) and their materials are available for review.
For agencies that provide services to a person with disabilities at his or her home, “the agency shall provide the services…at the person’s home” [Section 7(a)(4)(B)].
Regularly train staff on NVRA implementation
All staff should be trained regularly on NVRA implementation.
How to order Voter Registration forms
The Pa. Department of State worked closely with advocates to revise Voter Registration forms. Forms may be ordered directly from the Pa. Dept. of State. You can order up to 1,500 forms at a time (available in English or Spanish), as well as free voter registration posters and Voting Guides.
Call 717-787-5280 or e-mail: ST-VOTERREG@pa.state.us to order.
Sample NVRA Declination Form
National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)
Details about the NVRA
Voter Photo ID requirements
Voters in the U.S. general election on November 6 will be asked to show a form of current, valid photo ID in order to cast their ballots. Individuals without photo IDs can obtain one through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Please visit the PennDOT site for details.