The number of citizens registered to vote by Missouri's public assistance agencies, a service required by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and state law, has plummeted to one-tenth the number from 12 years ago. Visits to agency offices by Project Vote staff and Project Vote's analysis of demographic and voter registration data indicate that the decline in registration is a consequence of the failure to comply with federal and state law by the the Department of Social Services, Department of Health and Senior Services and Department of Labor.
This report details the following findings:
- The number of voter registration applications coming from public assistance agencies across the state has dropped to one-tenth what it once was.
- While one county registered nearly 2,000 citizens in Department of Labor offices in 2005 and 2006, all but two other counties registered less than a hundred citizens over the same time period in the department's ofices, even in some of the most populous counties.
- Hundreds of thousands of Missourians remained unregistered during the decline in performance at public assistance agencies.
- Voter registration performance at public assistance agencies varies enormously from county to county, with some of the largest counties registering fewer citizens at public assistance agencies than much smaller counties.
- Participation in public assistance agency programs has not waned and thus does not explain why voter registration has declined at these agencies.
- The success of voter registration services at DMV offices ("motor voter") also does not explain the decline in voter registration at public assistance offices as some counties demonstrate by registering signiicant numbers in both DMV and public assistance agencies.
- Neither the timing nor geographic location of voter registration efforts by non-profit organizations and campaigns in the state explain the drop off in agency performance.
- Visits by Project Vote staff to agency sites in four counties in 2007 found numerous instances of non-compliance with the NVRA.
We conclude that poor compliance and non-compliance with the National Voter Registration Act is evident in many agency offices throughout Missouri. We call upon Missouri to review NVRA performance in public assistance agencies and we make some general recommendations for improvement based on effective practices in other states.