Voting rights groups sent a letter to the Obama administration Wednesday expressing their concern with what they say is a failure to comply with a voting registration law. The groups accused the administration of violating the National Voter Registration Act — a 1993 law that expanded the opportunities for Americans to register to vote — by not offering the proper voting registration services through the federal healthcare exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. The letter suggested potential for a lawsuit.
“We hope to avoid litigation, but we note that the NVRA includes a private right of action,” the letter — signed by the presidents of Demos, ProjectVote and League of Women Voters of the U.S — states.
Similar lawsuits have been successfully brought against some states for not offering voting registration during certain public service programs. The law, also known as the “Motor Voter” Law, requires citizens seeking state services like drivers license applications, disability assistance, food stamps or Medicaid to have the ability to register to vote during those interactions.
Wednesday’s letter notes that since the U.S. government took over Medicaid enrollment through the set-up of federal healthcare exchanges in states that did not set up their own exchanges, voter registration has gone down in some of those states:
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.
The voting rights groups also pointed to the summer’s Supreme Court King v. Burwell ruling as buttressing their case. The ruling said that federal exchanges were legal and should function under the same requirements of the state exchanges.
“The undersigned groups and other voting rights advocates have been extremely patient in awaiting action on this important issue, understanding that the initial rollout of the ACA was challenging and that the King v. Burwell case created additional uncertainty while it was pending,” the letter said.
“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].”