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Senate passes motor voter.

The Senate passed and sent to conference with the House the so- called motor voter legislation last week. The action came after two weeks of debate on HR 2, the motor voter legislation, on a 62-37 vote. Final action came after agreement to modify some of the unfunded mandates on state and local governments and agreement to make voter registration at local welfare and unemployment compensation offices voluntary instead of mandatory.

The Senate version would pernut 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 rejected efforts to make the program voluntary or to provide federal reimbursement for unfunded, mandated costs on states and local governments. The bill would mandate states and local governments to set up procedures to register voters and mandate changes in the way most cities and towns maintain lists of eligible voters effective January 1, 1995.

The Senate compromises came after efforts to cut off a filibuster failed on Tuesday and after agreeing to accept some amendments important to cities and towns.

The bill would exempt states where there is either no voter registration requirement or where there is same-day voter registration for federal elections. For all other states and local governments, it would mandate states and local governments to set up procedures to register voters and mandate changes in the way most cities and towns maintain lists of eligible voters effective January 1, 1995.

For affected cities and towns, some of the greatest concerns involve:

* mailing addresses which differ from a person's municipality of residence;

* mandated unified forms for drivers' license applications and voter registration (leading to many duplications);

* mandatory notification of the disposition of applications; restricitions on local registrars' ability, to determine whether individuals are entitled to vote in municipal elections; and

* restrictions on removing persons from local voting lists.

Under the legislation, 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.

And it would mandate states and local governments, once every four years to either mail a nonforwardable registration card to every voter who did not vote in the most recent election, or to obtain from licensed vendors information about whether a voter has changed address. Depending upon whether a voter has moved within the city or to another area, the state or local government would then be mandated to send either verification of registration or notice of removal.

On Tuesday, the Senate agreed to a core package of modifications which would reduce some of the potential hability to state and local govern-. ments, including a requirement for citizens to sign voter registration applications attesting to their citizenship and allowing registration to be denied where mall-out confirmation forms were returned because the address was incorrect or non-existent.

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 comply with all the mandates proposed by the legislation, although 27 states have some form of motor voter laws.
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Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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