Obamacare, already litigated in the U.S. Supreme Court and the cause of a 16-day government shutdown, may soon be the impetus for yet another legal battle.
This time the debate will focus on whether states are required to be a one-stop shop providing voter registration applications to people shopping for health plans.
The 1993 National Voter Registration Act requires government agencies to offer individuals the opportunity to register to vote. Whether that law extends to health insurance marketplaces is now at issue, The Washington Post reports.
States are divided on it. Even those that have committed to offering voter registration applications don’t have a uniform method of doing so. Some provide a link on their health exchange website while others send forms to consumers who request them. Still others plan to offer a paper voter applications or provide a form that can be downloaded and then mailed in.
“This could end up being a huge legal battle in many states around the nation,” according to Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of California at Davis. “The fiercest of the debates will hinge on the impact on the electorate.”
Six states — California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, all Democratic strongholds — have announced their intention to enforce the National Voter Registration Act from their healthcare marketplaces, the National Journal reports.
Hawaii has decided its exchange is not responsible for registering new voters. Colorado claims that its exchange is not a state agency, but has included a voter registration link on its website anyway, according to the Post.
Democrats stand to gain politically if Obamacare and the National Voter Registration Act are entwined. Blacks and Hispanics, who make up about half of the nation’s uninsured, tend to vote Democratic, according to the Post, which cited a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll last summer showing uninsured Americans supported President Barack Obama over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by more than a 2 to1 ratio.
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