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Louisiana Violated Disabled Voter Rights, U.S. Says in Suit

The state of Louisiana and some of its agencies and officials violated the National Voter Registration Act through their treatment of disabled residents and people on public assistance, the U.S. said in a lawsuit.

The U.S. Justice Department said in the suit filed today in federal court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that the state broke the law by failing to provide voter registration services at offices administering to residents on public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. The law requires states to “identify and designate” these offices as voter registration agencies, the U.S. said.

“The voting process begins with registration,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, said in an e-mailed statement. “Therefore, it is essential that all citizens have unfettered access to voter registration.”

The Justice Department is seeking a court order requiring the state and its agencies to comply with the voter registration law. The U.S. names as defendants the state, Louisiana Secretary of State J. Thomas Schedler, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and others.

Sharon Kleinpeter, spokeswoman for the Louisiana attorney general’s office, said she couldn’t immediately comment.

The lawsuit is U.S. v. State of Louisiana, 3:11-cv-00470, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge)

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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