Here is an explanation of how the compromise involved in passing the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 was itself compromised. The Democrats wanted a law that would allow easy registration. The Republicans wanted a law that would require states to keep their voting rolls clean and up to date. They both thought they had gotten what they asked for. But a deal like that unravels when the Department of Justices works a lot harder to enforce one part of the deal than it does the other.
Nobody likes to be a chump. Unraveled deals have the effect of making future legislative deals harder to make. Legislatures become ineffective.
In August of 2016, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report entitled Increasing Compliance with Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act. This Dissenting Statement was a part of that report. It discusses the fact that Section 7 of NVRA (which requires certain state agencies, including division of motor vehicles offices, to provide voter registration materials) and Section 8 of NVRA (which requires states to keep their voter rolls up to date and uncluttered) go together. The need for the latter was most acutely felt by Republican members of Congress, while the need for the former was most strongly felt by Democratic Members. In essence, they were a package deal.
Nevertheless, in recent years, the Department of Justice has been far more interested in enforcing Section 7 than Section 8. Moreover, it has interpreted Section 7 far beyond its text. The package deal has become unraveled. Such policies make future legislative compromise less likely.
Keywords: Election law, National Voter Registration Act, NVRA, voter registration, compromise, package deal, bipartisanship
JEL Classification: K10