FRANK P. BELCASTRO Dubuque, IA
Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act [NVRA] in 1993 to increase the number of eligible citizens registering to vote in federal elections. One of the law’s provisions, Section 7, requires public assistance agencies to offer voter registration services to clients. But many people eligible to register under Section 7 don’t know it, because too many states aren’t properly implementing the law. Field investigations conducted by Democrats have revealed violations of the law in states across the country.
Women comprise the vast majority of public assistance recipients and thus are the primary beneficiaries of Section 7. A staggering 90% of adult recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] are women. Nearly 8.8 million Food Stamp recipients are women. Sixty-nine percent of those receiving Medicaid are women.
The most disadvantaged members of society are least likely to participate in politics but arguably have the most to gain. Low-income women lag behind in education, have less access to health care and affordable housing, have fewer assets, and experience more job insecurity.
Ensuring that voter registration is offered to the millions of women who participate in public assistance programs is an effective and efficient way to draw low-income women into the political process in unprecedented numbers, providing them with the voice they desperately need.