It was about time! Yesterday, the Department of Veterans Affairs reversed course and lifted its inexplicable ban on nonpartisan voter registration drives in its facilities around the country. As a result of the decision, over 100,000 veterans will now be able to register to vote in the VA’s nursing homes, homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers.
Last May, the department issued a directive (PDF) banning the dissemination of voting information and other voter registration efforts in federally financed VA facilities. Why? Because the VA claimed that voting drives are disruptive to veterans and that allowing employees to help patients register to vote is tantamount to engaging in “partisan political activities.” Both charges were baseless. It takes just a few minutes to complete a voter registration card and registering to vote is obviously not a partisan activity.
Veterans deserve better than a federal government that denies them the fundamental right to vote, a right they have fought so hard to protect.
Credit is due to the voting rights organizations and elected officials who aggressively challenged the department’s misguided directive. However, it is troubling that there’s so little time to take advantage of this rule change before the election. Hopefully the registration effort will begin immediately so that all veterans will be given the opportunity to vote this November.