Monday, August 11, 2008

Veterans-So much for honoring them

Ugh...I can't stand it when people do insanely stupid things that only result in citizens being disenfranchised, and then pretend that isn't the goal. One of the greatest things that veterans sign up to protect, is easily denied them.

Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary of State for Connecticut, has a pointed op/ed piece in the New York Times, shedding some light on the repercussions of a recent decision by the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs:

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.

I have witnessed the enforcement of this policy. On June 30, I visited the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven, Conn., to distribute information on the state’s new voting machines and to register veterans to vote. I was not allowed inside the hospital.

Outside on the sidewalk, I met Martin O’Nieal, a 92-year-old man who lost a leg while fighting the Nazis in the mountains of Northern Italy during the harsh winter of 1944. Mr. O’Nieal has been a resident of the hospital since 2007. He wanted to vote last year, but he told me that there was no information about how to register to vote at the hospital and the nurses could not answer his questions about how or where to cast a ballot.

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.

She goes on to explain the illigetimacy of the arguments used by the Secretary in making the decision:

The department offers two reasons to justify its decision. First, it claims that voter registration drives are disruptive to the care of its patients. This is nonsense. Veterans can fill out a voter registration card in about 90 seconds.

Second, the department claims that its employees cannot help patients register to vote because the Hatch Act forbids federal workers from engaging in partisan political activities. But this interpretation of the Hatch Act is erroneous. Registering people to vote is not partisan activity.

If the department does not want to burden its staff, there are several national organizations with a long history of nonpartisan advocacy for veterans and their right to vote that are eager to help, as are elected officials like me.

The department has placed an illegitimate obstacle in the way of election officials across the country and, more important, in the way of veterans who want to vote. A group of 21 secretaries of state — Republicans and Democrats throughout the country, led by me and my counterpart in Washington State, Sam Reed — has asked Secretary Peake to lift his department’s ridiculous ban on voter registration drives.

How many ways do they plan to disenfranchise before November? I think we better get on the horn to our own SOS.

And here is the rest of it.


brenda said...

Thats unbelievable, and un-American to take away a right to vote from those who served our country just because they may be disabled or elderly. We praise our military when they're at war, or still in the service, but when they retire or come home with missing limbs, they get treated like they never existed. Thats not acceptable, they fought for us, so now its time we fight for them. I will certainly make some calls.

Diane J Standiford said...

The elderly and disabled in nursing homes want to vote too. They often hav their TV's on news shows and are aware and want to vote, but can't get out, can't get an ID (some states insist on this) and how dare this nation exclude so many Americans? It is a travesty of equal rights for all. A slap in the face to veterans.