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US Veteran’s Voter Registration Bill Passes House

For Immediate Release

September 18, 2008

Veteran’s Voter Registration Bill Passes House

Groups Call for Senate to Quickly Pass "Veterans Voting Support Act"

Washington, DC--Hundreds of thousands of veterans would have widespread and direct access to voter registration services through Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offices under a landmark bill that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, the Veterans Voting Support Act (H.R. 6625), introduced by Rep. Robert Brady. A companion bill sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein and John Kerry (S. 3308) may be acted on by the Senate in coming days.

The House and Senate bills would create new opportunities for the nation's 25 million veterans to register to vote at facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Voting Support Act has been supported by a national campaign of veterans groups and voting rights and election reform organizations, including Demos, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and the Brennan Center for Justice.

"This bill is a major step forward for veterans--ensuring they get the access to agency-administered voter registration services that are already widely proven to work well in other government offices,” said Lisa Danetz, Senior Counsel for Demos, who testified as an expert witness at a Senate hearing on S.3308 this week.

"We call on the Senate to act quickly so that millions of veterans can receive the services they need to fully participate in our democracy," said Mary G. Wilson, President of the League of Women Voters. “Veterans have fought for our nation; they deserve full voter registration services from the VA,” she said.

The Act requires VA facilities to provide voter registration applications to veterans, ensures access for election officials and third-party groups that wish to conduct voter registration drives, and assists absentee voting by veterans in residential facilities. The law improves upon the limited voter registration rules recently issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake.

"Making voter registration part of the process of providing services for our nation's veterans would be a historic step in making voter registration more accessible for every voter in the United States," said Tova Wang, Vice President for Research at Common Cause, “Veterans have fought for our nation and we would expect the VA to be on the side of encouraging their participation in our democracy, not hindering it.”

The House-passed version of the Veterans Voting Support Act would make significant improvements to voter registration access at VA sites through several measures:

--VA facilities would be required, at the request of a state, to affirmatively offer voter registration applications and assistance in completing such applications, as federal law currently requires at motor vehicle departments, public assistance agencies and offices serving persons with disabilities.

--Third-party voter registration services and voter registration by election officials would be permitted. Previously, efforts by both groups were prohibited.

If passed by the Senate, veterans will receive meaningful voter registration assistance in this election cycle.

"We thank Senators Feinstein and Kerry and Representative Brady for their great leadership and commitment to protecting veterans' voting rights. “The VA must provide adequate voter registration services at VA facilities that thousands of men and women rely on," commented Jim Dickson, Public Affairs Director for the American Association of Persons with Disabilities.

"We applaud the House's action on this issue, and urge the Senate not to delay in passing this important legislation," stated Adam Skaggs, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Only by immediately passing this legislation can the Senate ensure that those who have risked their lives defending the right to vote will have a meaningful opportunity to exercise that right," he continued.

ENDS

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