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Monday, July 4, 2016

ACA Assisters Can Help Consumers Register to Vote

Elizabeth Hagan

Associate Director of Coverage Initiatives

Assisters wear many hats, from conducting outreach and education to enrolling consumers in coverage, and, later, helping consumers use their coverage. Assisters can serve another valuable role: helping consumers register to vote.

Applications for health coverage, whether through HealthCare.gov or state-based marketplaces, provide clients with access to voter registration, which makes it easy for assisters to help people register to vote. Here’s what assisters should know about voter registration and how they can help consumers navigate this process.

Remember: Before beginning to do this work, make sure you understand your state’s specific voter registration laws. Some states have additional requirements for those helping people print, fill out, and/or submit voter registration forms.

Applications for marketplace health coverage offer consumers the opportunity to register to vote 

Applications for public assistance programs are required to offer opportunities for people to register to vote. When people apply for Medicaid, for example, they are asked if they would also like to register to vote. This requirement is part of the National Voter Registration Act (also referred to as the “Motor Voter Act”), which existed well before the Affordable Care Act. 

Because assisters are rooted in communities and often have backgrounds helping people apply for other public benefit programs, many have prior experience with the voter registration process. While both HealthCare.gov and most state-based marketplaces offer the opportunity to register to vote, there are some key differences for assisters to keep in mind:

Federal marketplace: Consumers using the federally facilitated marketplace (through HealthCare.gov) will see a question at the end of the enrollment application and enrollment process that asks whether they would like to register to vote. 

State-based marketplaces: In almost every state-based marketplace, consumers enrolling for health coverage will see a question about voter registration, but how and where in the application it is mentioned will vary. The training provided for navigators and other enrollment assisters by most state-based marketplaces discusses the specifics of the voter registration process offered through the state’s application.  

When to bring up voter registration during the enrollment appointment

The enrollment application contains a question about voter registration. This is a great time during the appointment for assisters to ask whether the consumer is registered to vote at his or her current address. Assisters at this time can discuss the importance of voting, describing what elections mean for the consumer, his or her family, and the community. 

This conversation should not be and does not need to be partisan or political. Instead, the conversation should focus on the fact that assisters are able to help consumers with the voter registration process, just as they help consumers with applications for health coverage.

Assisters can then walk interested consumers through the voter registration process. In the state-based marketplaces, the process looks a bit different in each state. Those enrolling through HealthCare.gov are given a link to the National Voter Registration Form that is designed for use by consumers in every state. 

The form can be printed out from the link and, once completed, submitted to the state where the consumer lives. The form provides the address for election officials in each state, along with other helpful instructions. When helping consumers complete voter registration forms, it is important to make sure the form is filled out completely and signed. Providing this help means that consumers will be able to leave their appointment with the ability to use their new health coverage and the ability to vote. 

Learn more about how enrollment assisters can encourage voter registration

We encourage assisters to learn more about this process by reading the Project Vote guides about: 

  1. State-based marketplaces 
  2. Federally facilitated marketplaces
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