In all of the news about the White House hitting seven million signups by the March 31st deadline is a sinister story about the potential abuse of data from these enrollment efforts.

A California couple opened their mail to find a voter registration card sent by Covered California, the state’s healthcare exchange. The problem was that the card had been pre-marked with an “x” in the box beside the Democratic Party. This is perplexing for the couple who are registered Republicans.

Covered California is in the process of mailing voter registration materials to nearly 4 million people. So far they have mailed out 500,000 packets.

How many other recipients noticed the problem? Good question. The couple said they would’ve missed the error had it not been for their sharp-eyed accountant who caught the tiny pre-marking. Now, the couple fears retribution for bringing this error to light.

What does Covered California have to say for itself? If you’re expecting an apology or an admission of error, whether intended or accidental, keep waiting. The Daily Caller reports their response to the issue:

“The registration forms come directly from the Secretary of State’s office, each with a unique serial number and bar code for tracking,” Gonzales told TheDC. “SOS has a protocol for mailing out voter registration cards and tracking who was assigned which batch of serial numbers.”

She added that the exchange contracts the voter registration mailing out with a mail house.

“Tampering with cards is illegal and is a serious violation of state voter laws. If anyone believes this has happened, they should immediately contact the Secretary of State’s office for investigation,” she said. “That contact information is found in the text of the letter included with the forms. The Secretary of State is responsible for investigating claims of election law violations, including tampered or altered voter registration cards.”

This is a huge error at best and at worse evidence of voter registration fraud. Any non-government organization that mails a voter registration card with any party affiliation pre-marked should explain why and face penalties from the appropriate electoral commissions.

At minimum they should not be allowed to send any more out. They should send out a follow-up note to the half a million recipient that directs them to destroy the pre-marked cards and a note to all four million in their database admitting the error and asking that they destroy an pre-marked cards if they receive them. Then steps should be taken to identify bogus cards that have already been submitted to be destroyed and new cards reissued by State.

Covered California’s “Oops! But it’s not our fault” is not acceptable. It’s pretty hard to dismiss this as coincidental since this health group is so closely aligned with the President and the Democratic Party. If the ballots were marked Republican or Libertarian, we could assume that is was just an error, but the optics in this case are terrible.

Voter registration is a great advocacy tool, but not when it’s being used to advance a political agenda. The reason Covered California even sent the cards is because it has a big database and voter rights groups threatened legal action unless that database was put to good use.

The wrong response is to call for an end or limits to all nonprofit voter registration efforts. However, Covered California’s efforts may need to be curtailed until it can get its act together. 

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