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Voting Rights

2008's First Disenfranchised Voters: Injured and Homeless Veterans PDF  | Print |  Email
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
August 11, 2008
This article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The first large block of voters to be disenfranchised in 2008 are the wounded warriors from recent wars and homeless veterans living at hundreds of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country, according to veterans and voting rights activists.

"President Bush and Karl Rove are attempting to block voter registration of at least 200,000 and possibly as much as 400,000 veterans," said Paul Sullivan, president of Veterans for Common Sense, referring to injured former soldiers from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in various VA treatment facilities, veterans living in the VA's nursing homes, and homeless veterans living in VA shelters.

"We may have all kinds of hurdles," Sullivan said. "We may have the clock running out on us, but we will not give up. This needs to be shoved in the face of every single elected official in the country. We can fix this in a second We are talking about two or three sentences in legislation. We are talking about the integrity of our democracy."

In recent months, the Department of Veterans Affairs has resisted efforts by U.S. senators and top state election officials to allow voter registration drives in its facilities. Just last month, the VA issued new rules that banned election officials -- whether local registrars or secretaries of state -- from registering voters, saying it was a partisan activity that interfered with its medical mission. In most states, any time a person changes their residence they must update their voter registration in order to vote.
Help Our Veterans Vote PDF  | Print |  Email
By Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz   
August 11, 2008
This editorial was published in the New York Times on August 10, 2008.

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.

I carry around hundreds of blank voter registration cards in the trunk of my car for just such occasions, so I was able to register Mr. O’Nieal in November. I also registered a few more veterans — whoever I could find outside on the hospital’s sidewalk.

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.
Some Homeless Citizens Face ‘Roadblocks’ When Registering PDF  | Print |  Email
By Dan Seligson,   
August 08, 2008
Lack of fixed, ID address challenges voters and administrators

This article appeared in the Electionline Weekly and is reposted here with permission.

Over breakfast in a church social hall in Washington, D.C., Roy Crabtree, a North Carolina native who currently has no fixed address, espoused strong and well-researched views about politicians’ responsibilities, campaign promises, the price of oil and the war in Iraq.

When November rolls around, however, Crabtree, who has voted in almost every election in recent years, said he was unsure whether he would participate.

“It‘s up in the air,” he said. “Registering to vote without a fixed address - that is definitely a roadblock to our people.”

Low-income and homeless citizens face some unique difficulties when registering to vote. Proof of identity, such as birth certificates or ID cards, can get lost, making it harder to fill out legal forms. Registration forms are not always readily available. And residency requirements can cause other headaches. With the 2008 presidential election looming just a half a year away, homeless and low-income citizens might face a few complications – but it can be done.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund Unveils New Strategy to Protect Voter Rights this November PDF  | Print |  Email
By NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund   
August 07, 2008
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) has unveiled its new comprehensive non-partisan voter awareness program, "Prepared to Vote"

"Prepared to Vote is a program designed to raise every voter's awareness of the many obstacles in the electoral process that could affect their right to vote in the 2008 election. Through Prepared to Vote we hope to ensure that every eligible voter cases a vote that counts," said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.

Inspired by the Freedom School Model from the Civil Rights Movement, the Prepared to Vote Campaign seeks to empower communities of color by providing essential information prior to Election Day. Program components include community-based workshops, the dissemination of user-friendly materials, meetings with election officials, and a dynamic educational website
Three States Accused of Illegally Purging Voter Lists PDF  | Print |  Email
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
July 26, 2008
The article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The states are swapping data files to find duplicate names, but civil rights attorneys say they are not following federal law to remove them.

Election officials in a handful of states appear to be ignoring the federal law dictating the way registered voters may be purged from voter rolls, civil rights attorneys say.

National voting rights groups have contacted officials in Kansas, Michigan and Louisiana in recent weeks because those states appear to be purging registered voters after election officials found duplicate names and birthdays of people on their voter lists and in out-of-state databases, such as driver's license records.

The states are assuming that a more recent driver's license or voter registration in another state indicates that the voter has relocated, meaning the voter registration tied to their prior address is no longer valid. While purging voters who move, die or are imprisoned is a routine part of managing elections, the federal law governing purges -- the National Voter Registration Act -- lays out a multiyear process of trying to contact voters to confirm a change of address before deleting them from voter rolls.

The election attorneys say the NVRA process seeks to err on the side of protecting voting rights and cannot be circumvented by what appears to be a duplicate voter registration.

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