In what has to be one of the most illogical, unreasonable, hypocritical, and downright disrespectful decisions made by the new VA Secretary James Peake, the VA will not allow voter registration assistance in VA facilities. The National Voter Registration Act was passed in 1993 and imposes an obligation – indeed, a duty – on federal, state, and local governments to promote the exercise of the citizens’ fundamental right to vote.
VA Secretary Peake has a different take on promoting the right to vote, especially when those citizens are veterans. Peake’s position is that:
“the 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.”
Diverting of substantial resources? Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the internet and copied in a matter of minutes. I have helped at several different events where we registered voters, and helping with the form must take a whole 2 or 3 minutes. If VA personnel are asked to spend a few extra minutes with VA patients, I bet they would gladly do it. To think otherwise is to dishonor those who have served our country and those who serve our veterans.
Peake also insists helping veterans to register to vote is “partisan.” Voter registration does not require that the registrant declare a party. Obviously, he does not know the definition of partisan which means allegiance to a party or cause.
An interesting twist in the whole debacle is that armed forces recruitment offices are mandated to develop and implement procedures to ensure that those registering at the recruitment offices have the opportunity to register. The following is a section from the National Voter Registration Act of 1993:
ARMED FORCES RECRUITMENT OFFICES- (1) Each State and the Secretary of Defense shall jointly develop and implement procedures for persons to apply to register to vote at recruitment offices of the Armed Forces of the United States.
(2) A recruitment office of the Armed Forces of the United States shall be considered to be a voter registration agency designated under subsection (a)(2) for all purposes of this Act.
Since the passage mandates recruitment office voter registration assistance, I decided to call one of the local Army recruitment offices to see if they provided voter registration assistance, and, yep, they do. I spoke to a recruiter and asked one simple question, “Do you have voter registration forms?” His reply? “We sure do.”
The hypocrisy is staggering. The Bush Administration sends our military to fight and die in needless wars. Volunteers are provided the opportunity to register at the front end as they enlist. But at the back end, as our wounded return to lives filled with adjustments and frustrations and physical and emotional therapy and missing limbs and suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, the Veterans Administration denies help with one of the very basic rights that our veterans fight to protect – the right to vote.
Could it be that after service in wars, our veterans are more likely than not to vote against those who sent them? Keeping faith with our veterans requires more than laudatory speeches – it requires matching those speeches with actions.
Photo Credit: About.com
A young soldier in DaNang, Vietnam – August 3, 1965