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Voting rights advocates react

New Orleans, La. - Voting rights advocates say a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Louisiana violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

The nonprofit organization Project Vote and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) released the following information Thursday about the ruling:

In a 36-page ruling, following a trial in October 2012 in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, Judge Jane Triche Milazzo found that the state of Louisiana violated federal law by failing to offer an opportunity to register to vote to all applicants and recipients of food stamps, TANF, Medicaid, and WIC. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires that voter registration be offered to all such individuals, whether they seek benefits in person, or by the internet, telephone, or mail.

"Yesterday's ruling means that Louisiana will finally be required to comply with federal law, and that the state must help our most vulnerable fellow citizens register to vote," said Dale Ho, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). "Our democracy is stronger when more Americans are provided with an opportunity to participate."

The NVRA's requirement that states must provide voter registration to public assistance clients has resulted in millions of Americans becoming registered to vote. The court found that Louisiana failed to do its job to provide these opportunities to its citizens and must take meaningful action to provide those opportunities in the future.

The court's order was a major victory for the plaintiffs, the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and Luther Scott, Jr., an individual client of the state's public assistance program. The court concluded that the Louisiana Secretary of State, Department of Children and Family Services, and Department of Health and Hospitals systemically violated the NVRA's requirement that they provide voter registration to public assistance clients. The court enumerated numerous violations by the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Children and Family Services, and found that the Secretary of State had failed to ensure that the departments were in compliance with the NVRA.

The court ordered that all three defendants amend their practices and certify compliance with the law by March 15, 2013. The court also issued a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to comply with the law in the future.

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