Republicans have slammed Obamacare's health care exchanges—where uninsured Americans can apply for subsidized coverage—as "Democrat Party front organizations." That's because the millions of mostly low-income and minority applicants—who tend to vote Democratic—will be asked if they want to register to vote when they sign up for insurance through the exchanges, which open up next week. The administration has been adamant that it will not cede to the GOP on this provision. Until now.
The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), known as the Motor Voter law, says that DMVs and other state agencies that provide public assistance have to provide voter registration services. The Obama administration has said that means that both the state-run exchanges, and the federally-run exchanges that are being rolled out in states where Republican governors have refused to set them up, will have to comply with the Motor Voter law. But now it appears that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is wavering on whether it will require the 35 federally-run exchanges to offer voter registration, according to a recent report by the left-leaning policy shop Demos and the voting rights organization Project Vote. Congress also recently launched an inquiry into the matter, Hill staffers told Mother Jones.
GOP opposition to signing up new voters through the health insurance exchanges has been fierce. Right-wing talk show yeller Rush Limbaugh said in June that it shows "the purpose of Obamacare... It's about building a permanent, undefeatable, always-funded Democrat majority." In March, Republicans on the House Ways and Means committee worried about how Obama-friendly "associations like the now-defunct ACORN"—such as FamiliesUSA and AARP that the administration will fund to help sign up the uninsured—would use applicants' voting information. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) wrote a letter to HHS this past spring, charging that the health care law "does not give your Department an interest in whether individual Americans choose to vote," and asking HHS to provide justification for including voter registration questions in health insurance applications.
Some conservative legal scholars have argued that since the exchanges operate as a marketplace for private insurance, they don't fall under the Motor Voter law's definition of social service providers, and therefore shouldn't be linked to voting. But the exchanges also provide government subsidies, and as recently as April, HHS made it clear that all health care exchanges would need to provide voter registration services.
Well that's a new one, I had not really even considered this as the possible reason for such stiff opposition to ACA.
But it makes sense. As we know the Republicans are flat out terrified of new voters joining the electorate, especially if those new voters are young, poor, or non-white. You know the very people best served by Obamacare.
However there are signs that the HHS was no longer planning to provide the same voter registration services that the Motor Voter law requires, essentially caving in to conservative pressure.
In my opinion they should leave it the way it is. After all our form of government benefits from having as many citizens involved in the process as possible. Unless of course you are a Republican, then keeping the electorate small and easily hoodwinked is of paramount importance.
However let's face it, even if the ACA does not offer voter registration services, the Republican base is shrinking and the Democratic base is swelling. It is really only a matter of time.