Community Health Vote wants to support as many of the more than 1,200 Federally Qualified Health Center organizations (FQHCs) as possible in establishing non-partisan voter registration as one of the services they provide to their patients and communities on an ongoing basis. America’s Community Health Centers are the health care home for over 22 million people because of the quality, culturally sensitive services they provide. Millions of our patients and many more new patients will also be coming into health centers now to enroll in subsidized health insurance or expanded Medicaid coverage. Many of these people are eligible to vote but not registered and many have registrations that need to be updated for them to cast a ballot.

By making voter registration readily accessible and convenient for patients – who are statistically in demographic groups among the least likely to be registered to vote and engaged in the electoral process – health centers can offer a pathway to become more informed and civically engaged.

Health Center staff interacts with patients in a variety of settings during their appointments and now are also interacting with them as they apply for and enroll in coverage.  These interactions provide a unique opportunity to offer patients the additional service of assisting them in registering to vote.  As part of the insurance application process, health center staff will have the chance to ask applicants if they would like to register to vote and to help them register.

We hope that many of them will answer, “Yes” to that question.  We know that all health center staff are busy and that helping patients register to vote may seem like just one more thing to do, but we also know that being asked about voter registration by a trusted source like their health center makes a real difference in whether our patients vote. We want to make helping your patients register to vote as quick and easy as possible for them and you.

Whether or not compliance with the NVRA is required by law, health centers will have an interaction with patients that offers an opportunity to provide voter registration as a service to those they are enrolling. The enrollment process itself may be lengthy and, at least at first, confusing. To be successful health centers need to have simple and effective voter registration procedures and a training program in place.

This website will provide the resources health centers need to help their patients register to vote.

The Community Health Vote Initiative

Marc Wetherhorn, National Advocacy Director for the National Association of Community Health Centers, describes the Community Health Vote initiative. For more information, visit www.saveourchcs.org/community-health-vote.cfm.