The U.S. Justice Department settled its dispute with Connecticut officials Friday claiming the state has done enough to resolve concerns that it wasn’t complying with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
An investigation found that when Connecticut residents were applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses they were not being given applications for voter registration. The investigation also found that when an address was changed at the Department of Motor Vehicles there was no consistent form of communication about the address change with local registrar of voters.
Under the terms of the settlement, Connecticut has agreed to integrate voter registration as part licensing process at the DMV.
Connecticut will also ensure that change of address information submitted for driver’s license purposes will be used to update voters’ address information unless the voter declines to update her voter registration, according to a press release from the Justice Department.
Connecticut also plans to automate voter registration by integrating it as part of the DMV’s new computer system. The DMV and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill have put together a memorandum of understanding to automate the process over the next two years.
In the meantime, the DMV will modify its procedures and make sure every driver is given an opportunity to register to vote, even if that requires the application to be filled out on paper and then manually entered by a DMV employee into the computer system.
That new system will begin operating on Monday, August 8.
“This is a major step toward ensuring that every eligible citizen is registered to vote,” Merrill said Friday. “It also just represents good customer service to the people of Connecticut, who will be able to register to vote or update their registrations while conducting business with the DMV.”
Merrill has said that the new automated voter registration system, once it’s fully-computerized, will capture 400,000 eligible voters who are not currently registered.
“A robust, inclusive democracy requires ensuring that eligible voters can easily and conveniently register to vote,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said. “State officials worked cooperatively with the Justice Department to quickly provide eligible Connecticut voters an integrated one-stop opportunity to register through the DMV, as the law requires.”
In order to provide a voter registration opportunity for Connecticut residents who did not have one when last applying for or renewing a driver’s license or other identification document, Connecticut will contact eligible voters who are not currently registered to vote at the address associated with the driver’s license or other identification document, according to the Justice Department press release.
Republicans have been critical of the automated voter registration system. They contend the current paper process is adequate enough to fulfill federal law. The paper system has been in place for 23 years.
Connecticut is one of only five states to agree to implement an automated voter registration system and the first to do so without approval from its legislative body.