Scott Brown’s curious take on voting rights

Scott Brown's curious take on voting rights
Scott Brown's curious take on voting rights
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Even by Scott Brown standards, this one’s odd.

US Senator Scott Brown today criticized the state’s welfare department for sending voting registration forms to 478,000 people on public assistance, saying the mass mailing was a ploy to boost the ranks of Democratic voters and benefit rival Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.

The state’s Department of Transitional Assistance last month sent registration forms, along with prepaid return envelopes, as part of a settlement over a lawsuit accusing the Patrick administration of violating the federal “motor voter” law.

It requires states to provide voter registration at motor vehicle and public assistance offices.

“I want every legal vote to count, but it’s outrageous to use taxpayer dollars to register welfare recipients as part of a special effort to boost one political party over another,” the senator said in a statement. “This effort to sign up welfare recipients is being aided by Elizabeth Warren’s daughter and it’s clearly designed to benefit her mother’s political campaign.”

As a rule, any sentence that begins, “I want every legal vote to count, but…” isn’t going to end well.

The story, which Josh Israel summarized well, isn’t “outrageous” at all. Under the Motor Voter law (or more formally, the National Voter Registration Act), Americans are offered a chance to register to vote when they get a driver’s license or apply for social services. Massachusetts was falling short of the law’s requirements, a lawsuit was filed, and state officials settled the case.

Massachusetts, as part of the court-endorsed settlement, took the next obvious step of righting the wrong – the state began sending out voter-registration paperwork to the thousands of people who applied for social services, but who weren’t offered the documents before.

In Scott Brown’s mind, this is “outrageous.” Why? Because Elizabeth Warren’s daughter works with one of the groups that filed the lawsuit against Massachusetts and other states that weren’t fully implementing Motor Voter.

Israel’s ThinkProgress posted concluded, “It is surprising that a U.S. Senator would object to a state complying with federal law and attempting to remedy its mistake when it may not have done so. It is also surprising that Brown would, in effect, say that having more eligible welfare recipients registered to vote would automatically mean more votes for Warren.”

Scott Brown and Massachusetts

Scott Brown's curious take on voting rights