Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to improve access to voter registration services for U.S. military veterans.
Four years ago, Senator Feinstein learned a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in California was barring voter registration groups from communicating with veterans in the facility. Similar reports emerged in Connecticut and other states.
"It is a cornerstone of our democracy that every eligible citizen is able to register and cast their vote," said Senator Feinstein. "These rights should never be denied -- by fiat or as a matter of practicality -- to those who have given the very most for our country."
"This should be the easiest vote in the United States Senate. We should bend over backwards to give veterans the easiest path to the voting booth, end of story," said Senator Kerry.
Senators Feinstein and Kerry have worked with the VA to establish a fair, nonpartisan policy to facilitate voter registration for veterans who receive services from VA facilities. In 2008, the VA established a new and substantially improved policy to allow state and local election officials, as well as nonpartisan groups, to access VA facilities for voter registration under terms and conditions set by the facility.
However, legislation remains necessary so this voluntary policy cannot be rescinded or rolled back in the future.
The Veteran Voting Support Act of 2011 would:
* Require the VA to provide voter registration forms to veterans when they enroll in the VA health care system;
* Ensure that veterans who live in VA facilities have access to absentee ballots when they want to cast votes;
* Allow nonpartisan voter groups and election officials to provide voter information and registration services to veterans in a time, place, and manner that makes sense for the facilities; and
* Give the Attorney General authority to enforce these provisions.
"Our veterans have served our nation at great risk and sacrifice. I believe we should do everything in our power to ensure veterans play a central role in our democratic process -- that their votes are cast and their voices heard," continued Feinstein.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) co-sponsored this legislation.