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Voter Registration and Health Centers

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.

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