Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Veterans Voting Support Act (H.R. 6625)

This story is all too common
"On June 30 [2008], I visited the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven, Conn., to distribute information on the state’s new voting machines and to register veterans to vote. I was not allowed inside the hospital.

Outside on the sidewalk, I met Martin O’Nieal, a 92-year-old man who lost a leg while fighting the Nazis in the mountains of Northern Italy during the harsh winter of 1944. Mr. O’Nieal has been a resident of the hospital since 2007. He wanted to vote last year, but he told me that there was no information about how to register to vote at the hospital and the nurses could not answer his questions about how or where to cast a ballot.

I carry around hundreds of blank voter registration cards in the trunk of my car for just such occasions, so I was able to register Mr. O’Nieal in November. I also registered a few more veterans — whoever I could find outside on the hospital’s sidewalk.

There are thousands of veterans of wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan who are isolated behind the walls of V.A. hospitals and nursing homes across the country. We have an obligation to make sure that every veteran has the opportunity to make his or her voice heard at the ballot box. ... (continued in Help Our Veterans Vote by Susan Bysiewicz)

Recently the head of the VA blocked voter registration efforts on VA facilities, thereby hindering the right to vote of veterans hospitalized or permanently retired (see VHA Directive 2008-25)

Typically, when you go into a VA facility, this changes your address - and when you change your address, you have to change your voter registration. If you don't vote in two federal elections, usually your voter registration is canceled. And if you haven't signed up for an absentee ballot before going into the facility, you've got a big problem voting.

Since the decision to block voter registration drives on VA facilities was an executive decision, it could be reversed by an executive order of the President of the United States. So far, he hasn't done it.

Instead, H.R. 6625 would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to permit facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs to be designated as voter registration agencies. The rights of those who defended our Constitution on the battlefield must again be defended in Congress because of the unilateral action of a political appointee afraid that his incompetence will result in veterans exercising the franchise in a way he doesn't like.

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