Covered California Failing to Provide Voter Registration Services

Expressing strong concern that California’s healthcare marketplace is not offering required voter registration opportunities to the thousands enrolling in healthcare coverage, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter this week to the executive director of the state’s health benefit exchange, Covered California, demanding concrete steps toward compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

“The goal of the NVRA is to provide people who are underrepresented in our electorate more access to opportunities to register to vote,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project. “The decision to designate the state’s Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency is one of the most significant voter registration policy decisions in the state’s history and has the potential to bring millions of Californians into the democratic process in our state.”

Covered California was the first state-run exchange to be designated a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act and has had six months to implement voter registration.  This week’s letter from the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project, the national ACLU Voting Rights Project, and several national partners, emphasizes the need for transparency as to what is currently being done to ensure that the anticipated one million healthcare applicants receive access to voter registration during the open enrollment period. The letter urges Covered California executive director Peter Lee and the Board to appoint a coordinator to oversee and complete implementation by December 16, 2013, or be subject to possible legal action.

The letter comes in the wake of a separate letter of concern sent to Covered California, signed by more than forty organizations, that conveys widespread support for voter registration opportunities at Covered California. That letter was signed by a broad range of healthcare advocates, consumer advocates, and grassroots community organizations from across the state.

According to a November 13, 2013 New York Times article, Lee said that 30,830 people in California had enrolled in plans in October and 29,000 more enrolled through November 9. At the current rate of enrollment, 2,000 people each day are being deprived of the important opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration information as guaranteed by federal and state law.

The ACLU remains committed to assisting Covered California meet its NVRA obligations. The National Voter Registration Act is a 20-year-old law that has been implemented at state agencies in California and across the country and we are confident that Covered California will be able to successfully reach full compliance in the immediate future.

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