SERVE volunteers commonly canvassed the waiting rooms of Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) and social-welfare agencies – i.e., agencies where people went to apply for such things as food stamps, Medicaid, disability benefits, and unemployment benefits. There, SERVE members tried to register such people to vote in political elections. To help motivate potential registrants, the SERVE representatives emphasized how vital it was for Americans to cast their ballots against politicians who might have been inclined to cut food-stamp or welfare benefits for the poor.
Working on a state-by-state basis, SERVE was instrumental in promoting the passage of six gubernatorial orders encouraging voter registration in state social-welfare agencies. SERVE itself estimated that such agency-based initiatives ultimately led to the registration of approximately a million new voters.
SERVE's efforts bore additional fruit when the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, more commonly known as the Motor Voter Bill, was passed. SERVE's co-founders, Cloward and Piven, stood behind President Clinton at the bill-signing ceremony on May 20, 1993. The new law required DMV and social-service agency employees to ask all applicants if they wished also to become registered voters.
When the Motor Voter Act took effect in January 1995, SERVE played a leading role in efforts to improve its implementation by state officials, particularly in social-service agencies.
Evidence shows that the Motor Voter bill went on to breed a great deal of election fraud over the years. Though the law explicitly required each state to keep its voter-registration rolls accurate and current, in practice the rolls became contaminated with many names of people who were either fictitious or legally ineligible to vote -- ineligible because they had been convicted of a disqualifying crime, had been adjudged mentally incapacitated, had moved to another state, or had died. Such errors were common because, under Motor Voter's provisions:
when voters registered in person at a DMV or a Social Services office, the government workers handling their cases were not permitted to challenge their applications
when people registered by mail, they were not required to provide any form of identification
the law made it difficult to purge “deadwood” voters (those who had died or moved away) from the rolls in a timely fashion.