This Saturday, May 20, 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)’s enactment. The NVRA aims to increase voting access by stipulating specific requirements for state governments to expand voter registration, a fundamental aspect of ensuring full political participation. Along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the NVRA has been an instrumental tool in enhancing access to voter registration for Black and Brown voters, who disproportionately face barriers when registering to vote.
The NVRA allows voters to more easily access voter registration, including while seeking services at government facilities such as driver’s license offices, public assistance agencies, and state offices serving people with disabilities — many of whom are voters of color. In 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order to further expand access to voting in alignment with the NVRA, acknowledging the significant obstacles to voting still faced by voters of color and calling on government agencies to better support voter registration access for the people they serve.
Two years after the Executive Order was signed, many federal agencies have been slow to respond. In March 2023, LDF joined a coalition of 53 voting and civil rights organizations to publish a report assessing how federal agencies have responded to the order. The report estimates that robust implementation of the President’s directive to increase voting access across ten federal agencies could result in 3.5 million additional voter registrations per year.
Janai S. Nelson, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, issued the following statement:
“Too often, access to voter registration has been a barrier to participation in elections for Black and Brown voters. Because of the National Voter Registration Act, eligible voters can more easily access voter registration and fully participate in our democracy. As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of this historic legislation, we also recognize that much more must be done to achieve the full potential of agency-based voter registration.
“An executive order is only as good as its execution. We urge the Biden administration to fully implement a whole-of-government approach to promoting voter registration and access to voting in alignment with President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order calling on federal agencies to do their part in fulfilling the objectives of the NVRA. This includes ensuring full implementation in executive branch agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, all of which serve diverse populations that will benefit from increased access to voter registration.
“As always, LDF will continue to advocate for fair political participation and work to ensure that Black voters have robust opportunities to register to vote, including in underserved communities and in the most remote parts of the country.”
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.