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Groups Want Federal Health Exchange to Register Voters, Too

New York Times

The voting rights groups say that among other things, the federal exchange should be offering to help applicants complete a voter registration form. Although many applicants use the exchange independently, others turn to its call center or to “navigator” groups that have federal grants to help people apply for coverage.

“The navigators aren’t receiving any training or direction that they have to offer voter registration services,” said Jenn Rolnick Borchetta, senior counsel at Demos.

Navigators in several states that use the federal exchange said the voter registration link was easy to miss in the online application for health coverage and many navigators do not focus on it while they are helping clients.

“I’d suspect not many people have used it,” said Elizabeth Colvin, director of Insure Central Texas, a navigator group in Austin.

Michele Johnson, the executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a health care advocacy group in Nashville, said many navigators there “never saw” the question about voter registration while helping people sign up for health coverage. Others, she said, feared the question and link to a voter registration form were “too political to mention,” especially in Republican-controlled states like Tennessee where most elected officials oppose the Affordable Care Act.

“Anxiety on the part of navigators,” Ms. Borchetta said, “could be addressed by the federal government clearly saying what their responsibilities are under the law.”