A senior White House official said Wednesday that previous reports were wrong to say that the government was backing off on plans to include a voter registration option when people apply for subsidized health insurance at federal exchanges. On the contrary, the official said Americans
be able to register to vote when they apply at the exchanges mandated under the Affordable Care Act. Now that's been called into question.
As was noted in our coverage of the matter Wednesday, a since-withdrawn report from the left-leaning Demos and Project Vote had claimed that the Department of Health and Human Services was retreating on including voter registration on the websites where applications for health insurance. Republicans have opposed the inclusion on the grounds that this would make the exchanges "Democrat Party front organizations." The report of retreat worried liberal voter registration activists:
But, wrote TPM's Dylan Scott, an Obama administration official said Tuesday afternoon that reports the voter registration requirement would not be enforced are "inaccurate."
In a report Thursday, however, MSNBC has added information
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which is handling the roll-out of the exchanges, told MSNBC that applications to join the exchanges will include the sentence:
If you want to register to vote, you can complete a voter registration form at http://www.usa.gov.
That address takes applicants to a general government assistance site that includes no information about voting on its homepage, requiring people to use the search tool. Experts in designing such systems say that kind of multi-step approach is an ineffective way of getting large numbers of people to register.
Additional components of the voter-registration assistance appear to have fallen by the wayside. According to the since-withdrawn report, as described Tuesday by Mother Jones, CMS had been mulling training the Obamacare “navigators” who will help people sign up for the exchanges to also help them register to vote. Asked whether that would happen, a CMS spokesperson pledged to respond but did not immediately do so.
It takes three more clicks (and some this? or that? decision-making) to actually get to a mail-in voter registration form that is accepted in almost all the states. What the obscurity?
Can we have some clarity in this matter, please? Does the government or does it not plan to have a clear, robust option that doesn't require clicking here and there and everywhere to actually register? A system that leads into a thicket of choices will do poorly at getting people onto the voter rolls. Whose goals are served by that? I think we know.