State asks court to dismiss suit over 'motor voter' law Implementation lagging, civil rights group says

August 22, 1996|By John M. Biers | John M. Biers,STATES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for Maryland have asked a federal court to dismiss a civil rights group's suit charging that the state has failed to implement the "motor voter" law.

In a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the state said claims by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. that Maryland is not upholding the National Voter Registration Act -- which requires voter registration at motor vehicle, social service and other state agencies -- fall short on key requirements.

The class-action suit came four days after the fund, which is independent of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, asked the court to force the state to remedy its alleged failings in time for the November election.

The state says the fund failed to give Maryland the required notice of specific violations and that one of the plaintiffs, the National Coalition of Black Voter Participation Inc., lacks "sufficient personal stake" to qualify.

The state also is asking the court to drop Gov. Parris N. Glendening as a defendant because he has only "ministerial" responsibility for upholding the law.

Maryland Deputy Attorney General Carmen M. Shepard said the state remained interested in working with the fund, but he rejected the group's claim that there are widespread problems in implementing the motor voter law.

"Maryland was one of the states that very quickly got in line with motor voter," Shepard said. "We enthusiastically accepted our obligations. We don't think we deserve a lawsuit and a court order on this issue."

Shepard said Glendening should not be a defendant because day-to-day implementation of the motor voter law is the responsibility of the state Motor Vehicle Administration and other agencies, not of the governor.

Judith Browne, a fund attorney, said the organization has been in contact with the state about the law since February and that the state's contention that it was not given adequate notice is unfounded.

She also said Glendening has "ultimate responsibility" for implementing the law.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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