Leahy Joins Democratic Senators In Introducing Legislation To Improve Voter Registration Access For Veterans

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) joined with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and others today to introduce legislation to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide voter registration services to veterans in the department’s care.

The senators introduced the legislation after receiving a response from Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake earlier this month, again denying the senators’ request that Secretary Peake designate VA facilities as voter registration agencies. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Barack Obama (D-Ill), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are co-sponsors.

“The nation’s disabled veterans have given extraordinary service to our country and they deserve our efforts to provide the necessary help to ensure their full participation in our democracy,” Leahy said. “I hope the Senate quickly passes this important bill, and that the House and the President will act quickly so these steps can be enacted in time for the upcoming national elections.”

“This is about giving those who have fought to spread democracy and freedom the right to exercise that freedom in the voting booth,” Feinstein said. “I believe the cost of providing voter materials is minimal. And given the sacrifices that these men and woman have made, providing easy access to voter registration services is the very least we can do.”

“It shouldn’t have taken a legislative solution to fix a bureaucratic problem, but that’s what it’s come down to in the name of common sense and patriotism,” Kerry said. Making it easier not harder for veterans to vote is the least we can do in our democracy for those who fought for democracy around the globe. The cost of getting these voter materials to veterans is tiny, but its meaning is bigger than any of us.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Require the VA to make voter registration services available at VA facilities in states that request it, in accordance with the National Voter Registration Act.  These services include providing voter registration forms, answering questions on registration issues and assisting with submitting voter registration forms.

  • Require the VA to assist veterans at facilities to receive and use absentee ballots if they choose to vote absentee.  

  • Allow non-partisan groups and election officials to provide voter information and registration information to veterans.

  • Require an annual report to Congress from the Department of Veterans Affairs on progress related to this legislation.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance, services to the disabled and at all motor vehicle offices. The Act also allows federal agencies to provide voter registration opportunities.

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