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'Motor voter' mandate passes House, on to Senate.

The House last week passed and sent to the Senate motor voter legislation (HR 2), which would permit citizens to register to vote at motor vehicle departments, but would also mandate states and local governments to provide for mail-in registration. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation after it returns from its recess next week.

The bill would mandate that states and local governments set up procedures to

register voters and require changes in the way most cities and towns maintain lists of eligible voters effective January 1, 1995. Former President Bush vetoed nearly identical legislation last year. Under the bill, state and municipal governments would be required to provide registration in person at many offices, such as libraries and schools.

Municipal governments would also be required to accept registration through the mail and would be prohibited from removing a voter's name from the registration list for failing to vote. It would mandate cities and towns to allow a voter who has moved, but not notified the registrar, to vote at either the new or old polling place.

Failure to comply with the mandates in the act would make cities and towns and municipal officials liable to individual suits.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill, if enacted, would cost states and local governments $20 to $25 million per year for the first five years, and an initial start-up cost of $60 to $70 million to computerize local registration lists.

CBO reported that few states and local governments currently employ all the mandates proposed by the legislation, although 27 states have some form of motor voter laws. Those laws have increased voter registration in Minnesota, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Maine; but have had only marginal impact in the other states--some of which have actually realized declines in voter participation.
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Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 8, 1993
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