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Avoiding A Lawsuit, Alabama Agrees To Comply With Voting Law

Alabama's Republican Gov. Robert Bentley (second from right) votes in 2014.
Brynn Anderson
Alabama's Republican Gov. Robert Bentley (second from right) votes in 2014.

The state of Alabama is agreeing to make it easier for people to register to vote when they get a driver's license after the U.S. Justice Department pushed for compliance with the federal motor-voter law.

The two sides reached a settlement to resolve problems with voter-registration procedures at state motor-vehicle agencies.

The agreement avoids a lawsuit after the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division found widespread noncompliance with the motor-voter provision of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. It requires states to let people register to vote or update their registration information when applying for or renewing a driver's license.

The state has agreed to modify its systems in offices and online. The agreement comes after Alabama closed more than 30 rural driver's license offices this year because of budget cuts.

"We commend the state of Alabama for working quickly and cooperatively with the department to ensure that eligible Alabama citizens can register to vote and update their registration information through motor vehicle agencies, with the convenience they deserve and the ease of access the law requires," said Vanita Gupta, head of the civil rights division, in a statement.

Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley noted, "Voting rights are important to every citizen, and it is imperative that every Alabamian have the ability to vote."

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NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.