BOSTON — Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is faulting Massachusetts officials for agreeing to send out voter registration letters to nearly half a million welfare recipients as part of a court settlement.
In a statement Wednesday, Brown portrayed the effort as an attempt to give Democrats an advantage in the November elections, including his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren.
Warren campaign manager Mindy Myers called Brown’s claim “bizarre.”
The letters cost about $276,000 to send and were part of an agreement the state made after several groups filed a lawsuit in federal court.
The lawsuit argued that Massachusetts was failing to comply with a federal law requiring people to have the opportunity to register to vote when they sign up for public assistance.
“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,” Brown said in a written 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,” Brown added.
Warren’s daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, sits on the board of the New York-based think tank Demos, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states.
Warren’s campaign disputed Brown’s claims, saying the 1993 National Voter Registration Act requires states to designate as voter registration offices those state offices that provide public assistance.
The law is known more commonly as the “motor voter” law because it also made it easier for people to sign up to vote when visiting Registry of Motor Vehicle offices.
“Let’s be very clear — Republican Scott Brown’s baseless attack on Elizabeth’s daughter is ridiculous. His entire attack is built on efforts in multiple states to enforce a law passed almost 20 years ago with bipartisan support,” Myers said.
“For Brown to claim this is some kind of plot against him is just bizarre,” Myers added, saying Warren is very proud of her daughter’s efforts.
The lawsuit was also pushed by New England United for Justice, which describes itself as a non-partisan organization working to “educate low income families on how their voice impacts our communities through voting.”
The story was reported by the Boston Herald on Wednesday.
State officials defended the decision to send out the voter registration letters, saying it was necessary to comply with federal law. The state has also agreed to run public service announcements and equip welfare office waiting rooms with television screens explaining how to vote.
“Voting is one of the most important civic duties and helping our agencies comply with the National Voter Registration Act is a top priority,” Executive Office of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Marilyn Chase said in a statement.
Brown said the effort to register more welfare recipients “means that I’m going to have to work that much harder to get out my pro-jobs, pro-free enterprise message.”