I ... had a purpose now
To lead out many to the Holy Land,
Lest rest and lying still might make them look
Too near unto my state.
Therefore, my Harry,
Be it thy course, to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days.
--Henry IV, Shakespeare
WHAT is the secretary of Veterans Affairs thinking? On May 5, the department led by James B. Peake issued a directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. As a result, too many of our most patriotic American citizens — our injured and ill military veterans — may not be able to vote this November.
"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."
The Hatch Act has erroneously been invoked to continue this prohibition, but registering people to vote is a nonpartisan activity. A bipartisan group of 21 secretaries of state has asked VA Secretary Peake to lift his department’s ban on voter registration drives. But as Bysiewicz says, this federal legislation shouldn’t even be necessary.
Last Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the VA policy, policy barring voter registration drives inside its hospitals, concluding the rule does not violate the First Amendment.
"They are walling our wounded warriors off from participating in political life in the communities of which they are citizens," and "disenfranchising thousands of wounded veterans around the country." (Court: No Voters Drives at VA Hospitals).The Left Coaster says the first group of disenfranchised voters of the 2008 election will be "wounded and homeless veterans currently occupying VA facilities around the country."
"President Bush and Karl Rove are attempting to block voter registration of at least 200,000 and possibly as much as 400,000 veterans," said Paul Sullivan, president of Veterans for Common Sense. ... This needs to be shoved in the face of every single elected official in the country. We can fix this in a second. We are talking about two or three sentences in legislation. We are talking about the integrity of our democracy."
"The GOP has identified its first enemy group for election 2008, and it's the brave men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in carrying out illegal GOP policies. Disgusting."
Why would the Bush Administration keep VA populations away from the vote? Could it be they fear these military personnel are not happy with what they've seen, or how they have been treated? That they may not be the rah-rah poster children that they wish to represent them as?