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Nevada Officials Settle Voting-Rights Squabble

RENO, Nev. (CN) - Nevada agreed to improve its efforts to abide by the National Voter Registration Act NVRA to settle a federal lawsuit filed by civil rights groups.

The National Council of La Raza and the NAACP's Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks chapters filed the complaint in 2012, accusing Nevada of "systemic past and ongoing violations" of Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by not providing voter registration materials to low-income people seeking public assistance benefits.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du approved a stipulation agreement and dismissed the action with prejudice, upon the conclusion of the agreement.

The defendants - Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Richard Whitley, director of the state's Department of Health and Human Services - denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to provide voter registration materials to each person on public assistance and help them fill out a voter registration application, unless the client denies such help in writing.

Cegavske also will designate a state NVRA coordinator to ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services complies with Section 7 of the law. The department, likewise, will designate local site coordinators at service locations.

"Every step we take to assist all eligible Americans to become voters is a sound step," La Raza Deputy Vice President Clarissa Martinez De Casto told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jones dismissed the suit in August 2012, ruling neither La Raza nor the NAACP chapters demonstrated an injury that could be attributed to the state's actions.

A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel overturned the decision last September, saying the civil rights groups sufficiently claimed injuries arising from the alleged Section 7 violations.

Both sides then reached an agreement to end the costly federal action.

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