INJUNCTION ORDERING THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AND GOVERNOR PETE WILSON TO COMPLY WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT OF 1993
This action questions whether the National Voter Registration Act, an otherwise laudable attempt by Congress to promote nondiscriminatory voter registration standards, is nevertheless unconstitutional because it invades powers reserved to the states.
The United States and a group of private citizens, which shall be referred to as "the Voting Rights Coalition," seek to compel the State of California and Governor Pete Wilson to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg, et seq. ("NVRA"). The State of California and Governor Wilson seek to enjoin enforcement of the NVRA on the ground that it is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the NVRA is constitutional and permanently enjoins the State of California and Governor Wilson from refusing to comply with its provisions.
II. FINDINGS OF FACT
There are no disputed issues of material fact. The NVRA provides that states requiring advance registration to vote in federal elections must permit voter registration by: (1) mail-in application; (2) simultaneous application with driver's license application, renewal, or change of address; and (3) simultaneous application at disability and public assistance agencies as well as other agencies designated by the state. See NVRA §§ 4-7, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973gg-2 to 1973gg-5. The NVRA also establishes procedures and standards governing maintenance of voter registration rolls. NVRA § 8, 42 U.S.C. § 1973-6. States were required to comply with the NVRA by January 1, 1995. NVRA § 13, 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg note.
On August 12, 1994, Governor Wilson issued Executive Order No. V-98-94, which orders California state agencies to comply with the NVRA only "to the extent [that] federal funding is made available for such purposes." Id.
Believing the Governor's order was tantamount to a direct order that state agencies not implement the NVRA, on December 14, 1994, the Voting Rights Coalition and other interested private parties filed an action in this Court (Voting Rights Coalition, et al. v. Pete Wilson, et al., C 94-20860 JW) seeking to enforce the NVRA. Section 11 of the NVRA permits private enforcement suits. Subsequently, the State of California and Governor Wilson filed a lawsuit against the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Federal Elections Commission ("FEC") and the Chairman of the FEC, contending that the NVRA is unconstitutional and requesting that the Court permanently enjoin its enforcement.
On January 23, 1995, the United States filed an answer, counter-claim and third party complaint. The counter-claim alleges that the State of California is violating the NVRA and seeks to compel its enforcement.
On January 27, 1995, each of the parties filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The United States and the private parties seek immediate enforcement of the NVRA. The State of California and Governor Wilson seek immediate restraint against enforcement. The Court determined that the constitutionality of the NVRA is a dispositive legal issue in both lawsuits and that its constitutionality could be decided on the merits at the hearing of the motions for preliminary injunction. Accordingly, on February 8, 1995, pursuant to Rule 65(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court ordered the hearing on the merits of the constitutionality of the NVRA consolidated with the hearing on the motions for preliminary injunction.
On March 2, 1995 the case was argued and submitted for decision.
III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
A. Constitutionality of the NVRA
The Court begins the task of deciding the constitutionality of the NVRA by examining the language of the Constitution. Article I, Section 4 specifically states:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators. U.S. Const. art. I, § 4, cl. 1.
Article I, Section 4 has been interpreted to afford broad power to Congress. Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355, 76 L. Ed. 795, 52 S. Ct. 397 (1931); United States v. Manning, 215 F. Supp. 272 (W.D. La. 1963). Courts have approved congressional action taken pursuant to Article I, Section 4 which have required states to significantly modify their federal voting procedures. In Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 27 L. Ed. 2d 272, 91 S. Ct. 260 (1970), over objections by the State of Oregon, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of 1970 amendments to the Voting Rights Act. The Court confirmed Congress' broad authority to make or alter laws regulating national elections, including its power over voter registration:
It cannot be doubted that these comprehensive words embrace authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections, not only as to times and places, but in relation to notices, registration, supervision of voting, protection of voters, prevention of fraud and corrupt practices, counting of votes, duties of inspections and canvassers, and making and publication of election returns; in short, to enact the numerous requirements as to procedure and safeguards which experience shows are necessary in order to enforce the fundamental right involved. Id. at 122 (quoting Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355, 366, 76 L. Ed. 795, 52 S. Ct. 397 (1931)).