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VA Clarifies Voter Registration Regulations

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2008 – The Veterans Affairs Department has clarified its policy on assisting veterans' voter registration activities, with particular focus on inpatients and residents of VA community living centers and patients with limited access to community voter-registration resources.

State and local election officials and nonpartisan groups will be able to help officials register voters at VA hospitals and outpatient clinics as long as the visits are coordinated in advance to avoid disruptions to patient care.

"VA has always been committed to helping veterans exercise their constitutional right to vote, which they defended for all Americans while serving their nation," Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. James B. Peake said. "We've now established a uniform approach to helping those of our patients who need assistance to register and to vote."

The policy requires that information about the right of VA patients to register and vote, and other patients' rights, be posted in every VA hospital, and that all VA patients be provided a copy of these rights when they are admitted to a VA facility.

Every VA hospital now is also required to publish a written policy on voter assistance, allowing patients to leave the hospital to register and vote, subject to the opinions of their health-care providers. Hospital officials must help patients unable to leave the facility to register and to vote by absentee ballot.

VA hospitals must establish in writing the criteria they will use to evaluate requests from outside agencies to register voters, and to determine where, when, and how such registration activities will be conducted. They also must develop procedures to coordinate offers of assistance from state and local governments and from nonpartisan organizations, and how to work with VA's Regional Counsel offices to determine whether groups offering registration help are nonpartisan, as required by law.

Voluntary service program managers at each of VA's 153 hospitals will be responsible for implementing the new policy, and for providing timely and accurate voting information to veterans cared for at their facilities, officials said. They also will obtain and maintain materials that are needed to assist veterans with voter registration requirements.

(From a Department of Veterans Affairs news release.)

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Dr. James B. Peake

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Department of Veterans Affairs

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