The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 found it the duty of the federal, state, and local governments to promote the exercise of the fundamental right to vote. Executive Order 14019, “Promoting Access to Voting,” also sets as Biden-Harris Administration policy the promotion and defense of the right to vote for all Americans who are legally entitled to participate in elections. The Executive Order also emphasizes the responsibility of the Federal Government to expand access to, and education about, voter registration and election information, and to combat misinformation, in order to enable all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy. Federal agencies are required to evaluate ways in which the agency can, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, promote voter registration and voter participation.
Health centers have discretion, to the extent permitted by applicable law, to support non-partisan voter registration efforts as a means of reducing barriers to civic engagement within the communities they serve. However, Health Center Program grant funding made available to provide health services to medically underserved populations under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act cannot be used to support voter registration efforts. In addition, there are other potentially applicable federal and state laws that may apply in certain situations, including restrictions on certain partisan activities by 501(c)(3) organizations and certain public agencies. Subject to compliance with such laws, health centers have discretion to participate in activities, including voter registration activities, that are outside the scope of the Health Center Program project, so long as the health centers’ efforts in carrying out the Health Center Program project are not impaired. Such voter registration activities may include making available voter registration materials to patients, encouraging patients to register to vote, assisting patients with completing registration forms, sending completed forms to the election authorities, providing voter registration materials in waiting rooms, and allowing private, non-partisan organizations to conduct on-site voter registration.
Health centers should also consult with their own legal counsel concerning restrictions on other funding that health centers may receive and any applicable federal, state, and local legal restrictions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Health centers have discretion, to the extent permitted by applicable law, to support non-partisan voter registration efforts, including by making non-partisan materials available to patients, as long as:
- The health center provides these materials outside the scope of the project;
- The health center’s efforts in carrying out the Health Center Program project are not impaired; and
- The materials do not state or imply that the availability of services is dependent upon a decision to register or not to register to vote.
A health center that wishes to allow another organization to use its lobby for a voter registration drive should consider that voter registration assistance at a health center service site is not an activity within the scope of project, must be for a non-partisan activity, and must not impair your efforts to carry out the Health Center Program project. Voter registration activities may not state or imply that the availability of health center services is dependent upon a decision to register or not register to vote.
Yes, as explained in PIN 2008-01, your health center may participate in community events and conduct basic health assessments and screenings in order to seek out, engage, and serve persons eligible for the project’s in-scope services. Only the provision of health services by the health center would be within the scope of project.
No, as voter registration activities are considered outside the scope of project, HRSA does not apply any Health Center Program requirements related to board approval. As a reminder, your health center is responsible for complying with all other applicable Federal, state, and local laws and regulations. You should consult with your own legal counsel concerning state and local laws as well as restrictions on other funding that you may receive.