Mixed Results In Suit Over LA Voter Registration

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court order dealing with Louisiana's enforcement of a national law on voter registration was mostly a victory for the state.

         The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed complaints that the state wasn't providing required voter registration forms to people applying for government benefits by Internet, telephone or mail. It also rejected an argument that the state violated a law requiring that registration forms be provided to people who don't explicitly reject — in writing — the opportunity to register.

         The appeals court did rule that the Secretary of State's office has the power to make other state agencies comply with the federal act. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Thursday he disagrees with that part of the ruling, saying it conflicts with the state's constitution.

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         Schedler said the ruling proves the state is in substantial compliance with the National Voter Registration Act.

         "This case has frustrated me since the beginning because it never took into account the cold, hard fact that Louisiana's voter registration numbers are outstanding," Schedler said in a news release. "Eighty-four percent of eligible citizens in our state are registered."

         Plaintiffs were pleased with the ruling that Schedler has enforcement over other state agencies and noted that the opinion said there was evidence public assistance agencies were not providing forms to aid applicants who applied for aid in person.

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         "Aspects of the 5th Circuit's ruling sharply contravene the text, spirit, and purpose of the National Voter Registration Act," said Ryan P. Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

         The statement from supporters of the lawsuit noted that state agencies had made moves to comply with the law. Neither side said whether any further appeals are planned.

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill

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