Schumer Urges the President to Designate the VA as a Voter Registration Agency

by Amanda Adams*, 5/6/2009

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), the chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, wrote to President Barack Obama supporting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a voter registration agency. The letter states: "The Veterans Voting Support Act, offered by Senator Feinstein and co-sponsored by myself and you-when you were in the Senate-would have required the Department of Veterans Affair to provide nonpartisan registration services to the veterans it serves. During the debate over the Veterans Voting Support Act, we heard from veterans groups, state election officials, disability advocates and voting rights organizations. They all urged a great role in voter registration for the VA. Many of those organizations supported an immediate 'designation' of the VA to register veterans."

The National Voter Registration Act requires that designated social service agencies provide materials to eligible voters who visit their locations. Schumer suggests that through an executive order, President Obama includes veterans' affairs offices among the specially designated agencies.

Last year the VA remained adamantly opposed to allowing nonpartisan groups to register veterans on VA property. Groups continuously faced barriers and were even restricted from providing logistical information, such as details on new voting machines. According to Schumer's press release, "some 5.5 million veterans are not registered to vote. Making registration materials available at veterans' affairs agencies could put a significant dent in this number since, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, these offices serve an estimated 5 million individuals each year."

Schumer also suggested that other agencies assist with voter registration, such as regional offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

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