Surprise: Election Reforms Politicized
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Two developments on Tuesday underscore how election reforms are becoming increasingly politicized in a presidential election year.
In the first instance, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Tuesday criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for not helping wounded ex-soldiers living in VA facilities to register to vote. The new VA Secretary, General James Peake has said that voter registration is a "partisan distraction" that would detract VA staff from their mission of caring for sick ex-soldiers.
Obama called on the VA to help wounded vets register to vote and urged a full accounting of our wounded, injured and medically evacuated troops when discussing the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While all of the Democratic presidential candidates have decried the treatment of vets from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only Obama has spoken on the VA's efforts to suppress the voting rights of wounded former soldiers.
"You cannot lead this country into war, and then fail to care for those who have served, and for their families," Obama said. "It starts with protecting the fundamental rights of our troops. They have fought across the world so that others have the right to vote, but here at home, the Bush Administration has refused to help wounded warriors register. There is nothing patriotic about denying wounded troops the ability to vote. It's time for the VA to do the right thing. It's time to reverse this shameful decision."
Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which has been urging the VA to help injured vets with voter registration, praised Obama's remarks.
"Registering voters and encouraging them to participate in our democracy is a non-partisan issue â€“ every citizen aged 18 or older should be strongly encouraged to vote, especially our service members and veterans who have defended our Constitution," he said. "Again, we urge VA to reconsider their ill-advised policy of preventing voter registration drives at VA hospitals filled with our wounded, injured, ill, and disabled veterans."
In the second instance, the Bush Administration and House Republicans led to the likely defeat of an election reform bill, HR 5036, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) that would have helped many counties and states buy voting machines with a paper trail before the fall presidential election. The bill, which also would pay for audits to check the accuracy of vote counts, was the first election integrity vote to come before the House in years.