|DATE:||March 31, 1994|
|MEMO CODE:||Policy Memorandum: 94-4|
|SUBJECT:||WIC: Implementation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA)|
|TO:||Regional Directors Supplemental Food Programs All Regions|
President Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) into law on May 20, 1993. This law is intended to encourage individuals to register to vote. We are committed to the new voter registration program enacted by President Clinton and its successful implementation.
The NVRA requires states to provide voter registration services at designated agencies, including all public assistance agencies. These include WIC, Food Stamp, AFDC, and Medicaid offices. States are required to designate other offices within the state as voter registration offices which may include Federal and nongovernmental offices , with the agreement of such offices. This law must be implemented by all states by Jan. 1, 1995, except that states which must amend state statutes in order to effect the NVRA are provided additional time to implement the law.
According to reports made to the Federal Election Commission, four states are exempt from the NVRA because they had no voter registration requirements on or after March 11, 1993. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and North Dakota are exempt from the requirements of the NVRA. A decision by the Department of Justice is still pending on a fifth state , New Hampshire . In addition, the requirements of the Act are not applicable to the territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
By law, at a minimum, the following services are required to be made available to program applicants at public assistance agencies:
- distribution of mail voter registration application forms at the time of each program application, recertification, or change of address, unless the applicant , in writing, declines to register to vote;
- assistance in completing the form, unless the applicant refuses assistance; and,
- acceptance of completed voter registration forms for transmittal to state election officials. Under the law, such agencies are required to provide each applicant who does not decline to register to vote with the same degree of assistance in completing the voter registration form as is provided in completing program forms, unless the applicant refuses such assistance.
The NVRA further stipulates that any person who provides voter registration services is prohibited from:
- seeking to influence an applicant's political preference or party registration;
- displaying any such political preference or party allegiance;
- making any statement to an applicant or taking any action to discourage the applicant from registering to vote; or
- making any statement to an applicant or taking any action that leaves the applicant with the impression that a decision to register or not to register has any bearing on the availability of program services or benefits.
The Act sets forth criminal penalties for noncompliance with these mandates .
Each state and its election officials (or other designated officials) are responsible for implementation of the NVRA. Since the NVRA sets forth general implementation requirements, states have the flexibility to develop procedures that best meet their individual state needs. Therefore, variation will exist from state to state on the specific procedures that will be developed by states and state election officials to comply with the requirements of the NVRA. It is very important that WIC state agencies, including Indian state agencies, work closely with state election officials ·'in implementing the NVRA. It will be necessary for WIC state agencies to meet with their state election officials to discuss and agree on the procedures which will be implemented in WIC offices, taking into account the requirements of the NVRA and the requirements of the WIC Program. WIC state agencies should integrate voter registration services in a manner that minimizes burden and is least disruptive to current program procedures.
Attached is a copy of the NVRA, the Conference Report, a summary of the provisions in the Act which WIC state agencies should carefully review, and a listing of states impacted by the Voting Rights Act preclearance and bilingual requirements. Any implementation issues not specifically mandated or addressed in the NVRA, e . g., who is responsible for providing WIC staff with training on voter registration procedures, who will be responsible for retaining declination forms , etc., will require decisions by WIC state agencies, in consultation with their state election officials.
The costs associated with implementing the NVRA by WIC state agencies will be considered allowable nutrition services and administration (NSA) costs. Those voter registration service costs determined by the WIC state agency to be reasonable and necessary in meeting the requirements set forth in the NVRA may be applied against and absorbed by its NSA grant. No additional program funds are available to cover these costs . As you know, a wide range of WIC administrative and program services are required to be provided by state agencies with their NSA grants . Therefore, as state agencies continue to focus their efforts and resources on providing effective WIC Program administration and client-oriented program services, they must also carefully review the requirements of the NVRA and ensure the requirements of this Act are met.
State agencies will need to report voter registration service costs on Form FNS-227A, "Addendum to WIC Program Annual Closeout Report - NSA Expenditures." Definitions have been provided to state agencies on the four administrative cost categories set forth on Form FNS-227A. Voter registration costs should be documented and reported on this form in the same manner used to document and report other WIC costs and services .
We encourage state agencies to work closely with state election officials in implementing the NVRA. It is these officials who have jurisdiction over the implementation of the NVRA in states. Questions regarding implementation of the NVRA that cannot be addressed by state election officials should be referred to the appropriate FNS regional office.
In the near future, we will issue additional guidance through a policy memorandum to further assist WIC state agencies in implementing the NVRA.
STANLEY C. GARNETT
Supplemental Food Programs Division