Common Cause, Allies Demand Election Offical Withdraw Approval of Revised Federal Voter Forms

Common Cause, Allies Demand Election Offical Withdraw Approval of Revised Federal Voter Forms

A coalition wants Election Assistance Commission Director Brian Newby to revoke his approval of changes to voter registration forms in three states

  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
EAC Director OK'd States' Request That Forms Demand Written Proof of Citizenship

Common Cause joined more than 30 other advocacy groups Thursday in calling on Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Executive Director Brian Newby to withdraw his permission for changes in federal voter registration forms used in Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama. 

In a letter to Newby, the groups said the changes, which unlawfully permit the states to require registration applicants to produce documentary proof of citizenship, violate EAC policy and procedure and are inconsistent with recent court cases.

The standard federal registration form requires registrants to swear – under penalty of perjury — to their citizenship. 

EAC Vice-Chair Thomas Hicks, one of Newby’s bosses at the commission, has called the director’s action a “unilateral” move; the change was not adopted by a quorum of the commissioners, a requirement for any policy change to take effect. 

Unless he withdraws this decision and letters he sent to the states authorizing the change, the shift to required written proof of citizenship Newby authorized could impact hundreds of thousands of prospective voters in the three states.  The impact would be particularly significant because 2016 is a presidential election year, when eligible citizens typically register in greater numbers.

“As we’ve already seen in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, individuals are coming out in record-breaking numbers to select their candidates of choice,” said Allegra Chapman, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “Now is not the time for agencies, states, or other entities to impose stringent voter restrictions and hamper the process of political participation.

“President Obama observed in his speech Wednesday to the Illinois legislature that ‘if a far larger number of people voted… it would make our politics better.’ States must heed this call to ease burdens and ensure that voting is free, fair, and accessible,” Chapman said.  “The EAC, the agency to which states look for guidance on election administration, should return to exactly that work.  Its Executive Director should not – indeed, he may not – arbitrarily authorize changes to current policy, including changes to the national voter registration form.  He should undo that action and return to the work needed most.”

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