“Groups Want Federal Health Exchange to Register Voters, Too”

Abby Goodnough for the NYT:

When the Affordable Care Act’s new enrollment season begins next month, people seeking health insurance through the online federal exchange will also be offered something they may not expect: a chance to register to vote.

ut voting rights groups say the offer — a link to a voter registration form that they can print and mail, deep inside the application for health coverage — does not go far enough. This week, the groups accused the Obama administration of violating federal law by not doing more to ensure opportunities for voter registration through the exchange, HealthCare.gov, which serves 38 states.

In a letter to President Obama, the groups said that in contrast, most of the 13 state-based insurance exchanges have worked to comply with the National Voter Registration Act. The act, also known as the “motor voter” law, requires states to offer voter registration to people applying for a driver’s license or public assistance.

“This is an important voting rights issue that can no longer be ignored,” wrote the groups, which include the League of Women Voters, Project Vote and Demos, a liberal think tank.

Some voting rights experts are not certain their claim would hold up in court. At issue is whether the federal exchange is subject to the voter registration law because it is providing a service on behalf of the states it operates in.

“It’s an interesting, creative argument,” said Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “I just don’t know if the courts will buy it or not.”…

Mr. Hasen said that given the many battles the Obama administration has fought with Republicans over the Affordable Care Act, it might prefer letting a court decide whether the federal exchange has to comply with the voter registration law.

“The federal exchange tends to serve more Republican states,” he said. “This would be a way of potentially registering more Democratic voters there. So it’s politically easier for an administration that’s always accused of trying to expand federal power to have a court make this decision.”

Update: Nicholas Bagley is more skeptical.

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