'Motor voter' requirements ignored, depositions show Court rejects state's bid to dismiss noncompliance lawsuit by NAACP fund

September 21, 1996|By John M. Biers | John M. Biers,STATES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- One state Motor Vehicle Administration employee in Baltimore said he threw out voter registration forms, and numerous other officials weren't implementing the "motor voter" law throughout Maryland, according to depositions filed yesterday in federal court.

The new evidence, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., came on a day in which the court rejected the state's request to dismiss the fund's suit and ordered hearings next month. Among the fund's new submissions was an internal MVA memo that appears to contradict the state's prior statements about the suit.

The fund filed suit against the state in July, alleging it failed to implement the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to provide voter registration forms at motor vehicle and social service agencies.

Fund attorney Judith A. Browne called the judge's action a "big victory" and said new evidence -- obtained by the fund through the acquisition of state documents -- illustrated that Maryland suffered from "pervasive" noncompliance.

New submissions included depositions from 20 state employees and 60 Maryland residents not offered the ability to register. What the group calls its "smoking gun"' is an internal, June 1996 MVA memo citing a State Administrative Board of Election Laws estimate that 50 percent of MVA's renewal applicants statewide are not provided registration forms.

Previously, state officials have said that any instances of non-compliance were isolated exceptions to the rule in Maryland.

Lawrence Fletcher-Hill, a Maryland assistant attorney general overseeing the case, noted that the court's decision yesterday evaluated "highly technical" legal questions and did not represent an evaluation of the suit.

Pub Date: 9/21/96

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