Remember the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as the federal "motor-voter law"? The Clinton-era law made it easier for Americans to register to vote while renewing drivers licenses or applying for social services.
And this week, that's apparently causing a stir on the right because the law also happens to apply to the Affordable Care Act.
Right-wing media fabricated a conspiracy that "pro-Obama groups" will be able to steer health care reform insurance applicants to register to vote as Democrats, ignoring a 1993 law that requires programs offering public assistance to include questions about voter registration.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and The Washington Times reported that a draft application for health insurance through the health care reform law twice asked if an applicant wished to register to vote. They claimed that organizations who may register Americans for health insurance through health care reform may steer applicants "to register with the Democratic Party."
On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson similarly fearmongered over "the bigger concern" for health care reform insurance applicants that "pro-Obama groups...would steer them to register as Democrats."
As is often the case, when these talking points bubble up in conservative media, conservative lawmakers quickly follow, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) has now demanded that the Obama administration explain why benefit applications offer voter-registration options.
The pattern was reinforced by midday yesterday, as the arguments went from Fox News to Congress to the White House press briefing room, with Jay Carney facing questions about why Americans can register to vote on the same forms as they apply for health insurance subsidies under "Obamacare."
The mini-uproar is misguided, even by silly D.C. standards.
As Media Matters explained:
In fact, such voter registration questions on the draft application are required under law. A portion of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, otherwise known as the "Motor Voter Act," requires that programs that offer public assistance benefits, like the Medicaid benefits and tax credits contained in the draft health care reform insurance application, must offer voter registration:
"Section 7 of the Act requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities. Each applicant for any of these services, renewal of services, or address changes must be provided with a voter registration form of a declination form as well as assistance in completing the form and forwarding the completed application to the appropriate state or local election official."
There is no conspiracy; there is no boost for "pro-Obama groups"; no one is being "steered" to register for one party or another.