Voting rights advocates say federal Obamacare exchanges aren’t in compliance with National Voter Registration Act

It’s not just Alabama. On Wednesday, a coalition of voting rights groups and progressive organizations sent a letter to the Obama administration suggesting that if the federal health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act don’t come into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) soon, they could face a lawsuit.

The letter notes that the organizations bringing the complaint — including the League of Women Voters, ProjectVote and Demos — had held off on calling the administration’s attention to the issue given the Affordable Care Act’s shaky rollout and legal challenges. However, now that the act has survived King v Burwell, a legal challenge confirming that federal exchanges have the same responsibilities as state exchanges, it’s time to bring the law into full NVRA compliance. As they write:

But King v. Burwell has now been decided and, as explained, the decision strongly supports the applicability of the NVRA. Furthermore, [the federal exchanges] have now gone through two successful open enrollment periods. There is no longer any good reason for not improving the voter registration services provided through the [federal exchanges].

The NVRA states that citizens interacting with state government agencies must be given an opportunity to register to vote or update their registration. As federal health insurance exchanges are acting as identical stand-ins for exchanges that states have declined to establish, they are under equal obligation to provide those voter registration services. What’s more, the federal government has taken over the responsibility of enrolling people in Medicaid in some states, and voter registration numbers have seen a corresponding decline. As the letter reads:

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act, via Wikimedia Commons

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act, via Wikimedia Commons

For example, before the ACA was implemented, the number of voter registration applications submitted from Medicaid transactions in Mississippi was averaging around 900 per month. After the Medicaid enrollment process was taken over by the FFE in Mississippi, however, the average number of voter registrations per month dropped to only around 150. In Ohio, despite a significant increase in the number of people applying for Medicaid benefits, there has been no increase in the number of voter registrations from public assistance clients. In fact, the number has gone down since the ACA was enacted, dropping from almost 12,000 per month to approximately 10,000 a month. Overall, more than 3 million people have enrolled in Medicaid using healthcare.gov, and none of these individuals has been offered the voter registration services that federal law requires.

It shouldn’t be all that difficult for the administration to bring its exchanges into NVRA compliance, and there’s no reason to believe that they will delay in doing so. But it’s important that they do, and sometimes it takes a nudge from advocacy groups to point out holes in implementation such as this.

(h/t TalkingPointsMemo)


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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One Response to “Voting rights advocates say federal Obamacare exchanges aren’t in compliance with National Voter Registration Act”

  1. mf_roe says:

    Does it not chap your ass when Obama’s signature achievement repeatedly fails to meet what should be bare minimum levels of competence, this is another example of handing the repug zealots ready made weapons. Bush was able to implement a nationwide civil liberties take down complete with secret courts in months. The only way ACA survives to be improved is for citizens to believe that it at least meets Federal Standards of security and compliance with existing government mandates.

    The Insurance lobby wrote ACA, apparently they designed the IT systems to standards even less inter-operable than their own information rabbit holes.

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