July 25, 2008 - Veterans Administration hampers voter registration efforts in facilities
Paper: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Title: Veterans Administration hampers voter registration efforts in facilities
Date: July 25, 2008
Author: The Fresno Bee
Huge numbers of Californians are registering to vote in the fall presidential election . Yet one important group is being left out of this crucial activity: Those who have served in the armed forces and live in hospitals, homes and rehabilitation centers run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Unlike state-run veterans facilities, federal V.A. facilities are off-limits to voter registration drives.
The federal V.A. runs eight major medical centers and 11 nursing homes in California, including the Fresno V.A. hospital. These facilities provide care for more than 200,000 veterans. Yet the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs has rejected the May request by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen -- and requests from voting officials in other states -- to designate V.A. sites as voter registration agencies.
Days after Bowen's request, the V.A. issued a directive making it clear that it will provide information on voter registration and voting only to "veterans who request it."
When Connecticut's secretary of state went to register voters at a V.A. medical center on June 30, she was told she had to limit registration to residents who approached her. In a Florida county, a local supervisor of elections had to cancel a voter registration drive with the League of Women Voters at the veterans' clinic near Eglin Air Force Base.
This is voter suppression, pure and simple, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein has had enough of this nonsense. The V.A. shows no signs of changing its policy in time for October registration deadlines, so Feinstein has introduced a bill (SB 3308) that would require the V.A. to provide voter registration services to veterans in the department's care, in states that request it. Nonpartisan groups and election officials could provide voter information.
This should be unnecessary. But with a V.A. bureaucracy that bars even nonpartisan voter registration and education activities conducted by state and local election officials or the League of Women Voters, Congress has to step in to assure that voting still is a right of citizenship for those who have served in the armed forces.
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Record Number: FRS_0416139535
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