Starting on October 1, millions of Americans will begin applying for health care coverage through health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. The State of Vermont demonstrated its commitment to the voting rights yesterday by announcing that its exchange will also operate as a voter registration agency.
"Voting is a fundamental right, and as the chief elections officer in the state of Vermont, one of my top priorities is to promote the registration of all eligible voters," Vermont Secretary of State James Condos said.
The potential impact of this policy cannot be overstated. Nationally, approximately one-third of those without health insurance also are not registered to vote.
This makes Vermont the third state—with New York and California the first two —to offer voter registration to Americans signing up for health insurance. This important win for democracy didn't just come out of nowhere. Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the "motor voter law," to make voter registration more accessible. The law requires DMVs, public assistance offices, agencies offering services to people with disabilities, and other governmental agencies to offer voter registration.
Because voting is essential to our democracy, the ACLU calls on all states with state-based exchanges to follow Vermont—and the law—and incorporate voter registration as part of the health insurance application process. States should take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to expand access to millions of eligible voters.