California launches innovative plan to expand voter registration

California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen is designating the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange, Covered California, as a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act. That means Covered California will be incorporating voter registration into every transaction – online, in-person and by phone – it has with consumers.

“The timing could not be more ideal,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of the Voting Rights Project of the ACLU of California. “Covered California is already leading the country in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Secretary Bowen’s decision to include 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 will bring millions of Californians into the democratic process in our state. We are hopeful that many other states will follow her innovative lead.”

California is the first state to designate its Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency under the NVRA. As many as six million people are eligible to apply for or renew their health coverage through Covered California.

Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP