You are here

Motor Voter: The National Voter Registration Act

Robert Timothy Reagan
August 20, 2014
In Print: Available for Distribution

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was enacted in 1993 to promote voter registration and registration accuracy. The statute requires states to establish procedures for voter registration (1) upon obtaining a driver’s license; (2) by mail; (3) at government offices, including those providing public assistance or disability services; and (4) at military recruitment offices. This monograph surveys federal court interpretations of the statute. The text of the statute is included as an appendix.

Note 1: Since the publication of this guide, courts of appeals have reversed two district court decisions described in the guide:
a. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit determined that the Election Assistance Commission is not required to permit states to amend the federal voter registration form to require proof of citizenship beyond a written statement under penalty of perjury: Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Comm'n, 772 F.3d 1183 (10th Cir.), rev'g 6 F. Supp. 3d 1252 (D. Kan. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S. Ct. 2891 (2015); see League of Women Voters v. Newby, 838 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (overruling the Federal Election Assistance Commission's permission for some states to add a citizenship documentation requirement to the federal voter registration form, because the commission failed to show or find that the addition was necessary); Fish v. Kobach, 840 F.3d 710 (10th Cir. 2016) (attestation under penalty of perjury that a voter registration applicant is a citizen is sufficient absent a factual showing that a substantial number of noncitizens have successfully registered to vote).
b. The U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal by a District of Nevada Judge of a section 7 case for lack of standing and ordered the case reassigned to a different judge: National Council of La Raza v. Cegavske, 800 F.3d 1032 (9th Cir. 2015), rev'g 914 F. Supp. 2d 1201 (D. Nev. 2012).

Note 2: In September 2014, NVRA provisions were moved from sections 1973gg through 1973gg-10 of title 42 of the U.S. Code to sections 20501 through 20511 of a new title 52.