Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
May 16, 2013

Millions of Californians who contact the state’s new health exchange to buy insurance will be given the opportunity to register to vote, too, a move that some Republicans fear could benefit Democrats.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen made California the first state to designate its health exchange as a voter registration agency Wednesday but others are expected to follow suit, said Shannan Velayas, Bowen’s spokeswoman.

“This is about making sure that all eligible Californians are offered the chance to register to vote,” Velayas said Thursday.

A 1993 federal law requires states to designate their agencies and offices that provide public assistance or disability services as voter registration agencies, Velayas said.

The federal law commonly is known as “motor voter” because it ensured that applicants for drivers’ licenses nationwide would be asked if they wanted to register to vote.

Public agencies in California that currently serve as voter registration outlets include the Department of Motor Vehicles and offices overseeing the state’s welfare, tax collection, and in-home supportive services.

California’s health-care exchange, Covered California, is creating a marketplace for millions of uninsured Californians to compare prices and buy health insurance policies this fall to take effect Jan. 1.

Many of Covered California’s clients are expected to be families of low and moderate incomes. Some will be eligible for taxpayer subsidized policies and others will have incomes low enough to qualify for Medi-Cal.

Senate GOP leader Bob Huff said he supports the notion of all Californians registering to vote but that targeting specific populations of people creates the possibility of partisan advantage.

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