Voting Rights Groups Step Up Criticism on VA Voting Policy

Four influential voting rights groups Monday called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to change its voter registration policy so injured former soldiers living at VA facilities would pro-actively be helped with registering to vote and voting, instead of the current VA policy where the burden falls on vets to seek assistance.

“As a former secretary of state, I know how important it is for our veterans to be able to participate in our democracy,” said Miles Rapoport, president of Demos, one of the groups and a former Secretary of State of Connecticut. “I urge (Secretary of Veterans Affairs) James Peake to stop blocking voter registration by our vets.”

“It seems incomprehensible for me that VA does not want to assist veterans to register. It is despicable,” said Jim Dickson, vice-president of American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD). “I am trying hard to not express how angry I am.”

Many injured former soldiers, like members of the public at large, do not know that they have to update their voter registration credentials whenever they move -- such as relocating to a VA campus or hospital. The four groups -- AAPD, Common Cause, Demos and the League of Women Voters -- want the VA to be like motor vehicle departments, where the public is routinely asked and helped with voter registration.

Under previous administrations, many VA facilities routinely helped patients to register and to vote, according to congressional staffers familiar with the issue's history.

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