On September 15, 2008, Demos Senior Counsel Lisa J. Danetz testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in support of S.3308, the Veterans Voting Support Act. S.3308 required that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agree to state designations of its facilities as voter registration agencies under Section 7 of the NVRA, provide assistance with absentee ballots at such facilities, allow nonpartisan organizations to provide voter registration information and assistance at facilities, and allow elections officials to provide voting information and voter registration services at facilities.
- U.S. Census data indicate that a significant number of veterans remain unregistered to vote. Over 5.3 million veterans (23.2% of all veterans) were not registered to vote in 2006.
- S.3308 ensures that some form of affirmative voter registration assistance will be available to veterans at facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Such assistance would be provided by facility personnel, by nonpartisan organizations, or by elections officials.
- As a critical service provider to our country’s veterans, the VA is uniquely suited to reach out to unregistered veterans. Many veterans reside for extended periods at VA facilities and some, especially those who are disabled, face significant obstacles to traveling off-campus for voter registration.
- VA facilities are well situated to provide effective and efficient voter registration services and are fully appropriate for designation as voter registration agencies. Many VA facilities are similar in their function, procedures, and population served as existing mandatory voter registration agencies, including Armed Forces Recruitment Centers. The procedures through which voter registration services have been integrated into other agencies’ work may be readily included in VA programs.
- S.3308 reverses the Bush Administration’s damaging policy prohibiting nonpartisan voter registration drives at VA facilities. Elderly and disabled Americans often require assistance in registering to vote. Organizations such as the American Legion and the League of Women Voters should have the opportunity to provide voter registration services to veterans as part of a national policy to encourage the broadest possible access to voting for the men and women who have so faithfully served their country.