I suspect you'll be hearing a lot about today's Boston Herald cover story on local talk radio today. The article declares that "the state has mailed out voter registration letters to nearly 500,000
welfare recipients, in a push... that critics say is a naked bid to boost Democrats at the polls
in November." Former Tom Delay communications director John Feehery chimes in: "So the fix is in, huh? This is an inside job. The settlement seems like
it’s a case of (Gov. Deval) Patrick finding a way to help his friends,
Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.”
This interpretation is not quite accurate, by which I mean that it is the exact polar opposite of the truth.
In fact, the Patrick administration and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin have been systematically breaking the law in the other direction -- abdicating their legal duty, under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, to proactively help register people who seek social services, such as welfare benefits.
The Act is better known as the Motor Voter law. But it also requires agencies like the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance to do what the Registry of Motor Vehicles does -- provide a voter registration form to anyone applying for new services, renewal of services, or address changes, and offer assistance in filling out and filing the form.
Turns out, the Mass. DTA wasn't routinely doing that. In other words, the state was systematically failing to register thousands upon thousands of welfare recipients. Only when taken to court -- and with great pressure to act in time for the August 17 registration deadline for the state primary -- did state officials agree to try to make good by sending out letters and other public outreach. That effort, needless to say, is likely to be far less effective than the in-person assistance the state was supposed to do in the first place.
Frankly, if anyone thought that welfare recipients were likely to vote Republican, this whole thing would look a lot like Democrats Patrick and Galvin were engaged in illegal voter suppression for partisan political gain. Making it out to be a conspiracy to boost voter participation among welfare recipients for partisan political gain is topsy-turvy nonsense.