'Motor-voter' bill advances in Congress

April 29, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- House and Senate negotiators agreed yesterday on the final wording of legislation making it much easier to register to vote, apparently resolving a feud between Republicans and Democrats over which party might gain an electoral advantage from the change.

The compromise bill would allow citizens to register to vote by signing a form whenever they obtain a driver's license, apply for welfare or disability benefits or enlist in the military. It also establishes a standard form enabling citizens in any state to register by mail.

The House and Senate had passed broadly similar bills in February, and both must vote on the latest version before it can be sent to the White House for President Clinton's signature, probably next month.

Senate Republicans had fought the so-called motor-voter bill to a standstill in February, mounting a filibuster that forced the Democratic leadership to amend the measure.

The compromise yesterday would require states to place voter-registration forms in welfare offices. But it would also give applicants for public assistance ample opportunity to refuse registration or avoid any intimidation by state officials who run welfare offices.

Among several changes, the bill would require that welfare recipients be informed in writing that they can refuse to register to vote, and that neither their decision nor their choice of party will have any bearing on the amount of assistance that they receive.

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