Anti-voter fraud groups are raising the alarm over a portion of the Obamacare website that gives applicants the option to register to vote, saying information surrendered to the site could interfere with election integrity.
Healthcare.gov, which has experienced significant technological problems since it first launched Oct. 1, presents individuals at the end of the application process with a box asking, “Would you like to register to vote?”
Now, it’s important to note that there is nothing legally wrong with this.
Indeed, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known more commonly as the Motor Voter Act, requires that any agency offering public assistance must also offer individuals the opportunity to register to vote.
And because healthcare.gov offers public assistance to people looking to sign up for health care benefits, the site also offers applicants the opportunity to register to vote.
But anti-voter fraud groups, such as True the Vote, say the glitchy site and its so-called navigators -- people tasked with walking applicants through the sign-up process -- raise serious questions about voter confidentiality.
“Are you comfortable with the idea of Planned Parenthood knocking on your doors to see if you want to sign up for Obamacare and registering you to vote?” True the Vote spokesman Logan Churchwell told TheBlaze in a phone interview Thursday.
Three state-level Planned Parenthood affiliates received approximately $655,000 from the federal government in August to help consumers navigate the Obamacare online exchanges, The Hill reported.
“Are you comfortable with them showing up later and asking you why you aren’t voting for Wendy Davis?” he added, referring to the Texas state senator who filibustered a bill aimed at toughening the Lone Star state’s abortion laws.
Churchwell said the issue isn’t so much that the site helps applicants register to vote, it’s that it is unclear what the Department of Health and Human Services and its navigators plan to do with voter information.
“It’s a confidence issue. Where does this information go? Especially from the partisan groups that help people navigate the site,” he told TheBlaze. “The average Joe doesn’t know who the navigators are and he doesn’t know that they’ll be coming back. We’re looking further down the line with what could happen to personal voter information.”
“The fact that these navigators get to walk someone through health care -- there’s no check against, say, Planned Parenthood signing you up for Obamacare and then coming around later during an election cycle,” he said.
Churchwell isn’t alone in his concern; others have raised similar issues.
Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who both sit on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sent Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter Monday asking what her agency plans to do with voter information collected through the agency’s website.
Here’s a full copy of Issa’s letter, which also includes an official report on Obamacare's signup goals:
They said the voting portion of the site could confuse people into thinking that registering to vote is a requirement to enroll in Obamacare.
Furthermore, they stated in the letter, it’s unclear whether personal voter information will be kept confidential.
“Given the well-documented flaws in the healthcare application process, the public lacks confidence that HHS has the ability to safeguard applicants' voter information,” the letter to Sebelius reads. “Documents reviewed by the committee show that applicants may submit personal information over the Internet during the application process without encryption potentially exposing personally identifiable information to interception and abuse.”
“As a result, applicants attempting to register to vote, face the possibility of unknowingly making their voter registration information available online,” it adds.
Additionally, healthcare.gov’s documented security issues may also pose a serious risk for confidential voter information.
But here’s the biggest concern raised by the two congressmen:
… it is unclear how HHS uses the voter information it collects once a user submits this data on the website. Applicants rightly expect that only state election officials will have access to their information.
Voter registration contains important personal details that are valuable to various individuals and organizations. Considering the problems facing the healthcare website, we are concerned that private information may make it into the hands of organizations who wish to use the information for their benefit, without notifying the individuals registering to vote, or properly obtaining their consent.
Adding to the growing list of concerns is the fact that many insurers say the error-riddled Obamacare website is sending duplicate copies of enrollee information, sometimes enrolling and then cancelling the same individual multiple times.
“These facts raise questions as to what happens when the same individual expresses the desire to vote multiple times,” the letter reads. “HHS does not appear to have the capacity to differentiate between duplicates and first time applicants.”
Simply put, it’s unclear whether HHS is competent enough be trusted with voter registration information.
Issa and Chaffetz have asked that Sebelius provide the House Oversight Committee a selection of documents, including HHS emails pertaining to the department’s policy of collecting voter registration information.
The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged this week it had received the congressmen’s request, but Issa and Chaffetz have yet to receive any documents, a committee spokeswoman told TheBlaze.
TheBlaze tried to contact HHS for comment, but was directed to Sebelius’ press office and prompted by a recorded message to leave a comment.
The mailbox was full.
FINAL THOUGHT: So are the rumors true about Obamacare actually opening the door to voting issues? Consider this: there are two congressman very worried about it, and there are scenarios that seem to pose a risk. The extent, however, is yet to be seen.
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