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National Issues

Veterans Department Creates Roadblocks to Voter Registration for Injured Vets PDF  | Print |  Email
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
April 21, 2008
This article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

On the same day the Pentagon's commander in Iraq told the Senate that new troop withdrawals could not considered for months, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake told two Democratic senators that his department *will not help injured veterans at VA facilities to register to vote before the 2008 election.*

"VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission," Peake said in an April 8 letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass. He was referring to a 1993 federal law that allows government agencies to host voter registration efforts.

..."The Department of Veterans Affairs should provide voter materials to veterans," Feinstein said. "I believe the cost of providing these voter materials is minimal. It's a small price to pay for the sacrifice these men and women have made in fighting for our nation's freedom. I am disappointed."

"You'd think that when so many people give speeches about keeping faith with our veterans, the least the government would do is protect their right to vote, after they volunteered to go thousands of miles from home to fight and give that right to others," Kerry said. "And yet we've seen the government itself block veterans from registering to vote in VA facilities, without any legal basis or rational explanation.

"But the VA's response is not unique among government agencies, according to Michael Slater, deputy director of Project Vote, which is organizing registration drives across the country in 2008.

'America, among western democracies, is unique in putting the responsibility on the individual, not the state, to register voters," he said. "Today, *63 million Americans, about a third of eligible voting age population, are not registered to vote.'*

And in the interesting comments that follow the article, one reader writes:

It doesn't seem entirely clear in the article, but the *VA refuses to allow outside voter-registration groups to assist veterans*, while at the same time failing to provide that service itself. This effectively disenfranchises hospitalized veterans.

Another thing I would be very interested in seeing someone investigate. A friend of mine works for the VA, and she tells me that progressive websites are blocked from VA computers. I wonder if this policy is applied to right-wing sites as well. I would assume that hospitalized veterans have access to Internet terminals - so they are apparently being allowed only an extremely filtered world-view.
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