An op-ed in the New York Times today by Susan Bysiewicz, Connecticut’s Secretary of State, reveals an alarming policy at Veterans Affairs hospitals to block voter registration campaigns.

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.

Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, and I wrote to Secretary Peake in July to request that elections officials be let inside the department’s facilities to conduct voter education and registration. Our request was denied.

The department offers two reasons to justify its decision. First, it claims that voter registration drives are disruptive to the care of its patients. This is nonsense. Veterans can fill out a voter registration card in about 90 seconds.

Second, the department claims that its employees cannot help patients register to vote because the Hatch Act forbids federal workers from engaging in partisan political activities. But this interpretation of the Hatch Act is erroneous. Registering people to vote is not partisan activity.

Unbelievable.  Emphasis mine.

I’m pretty sure troops who left the country and everything they had to fight for their country aren’t going to be the type to be disrupted by an opportunity to register to vote.

And like Secretary Bysiewicz writes, using the Hatch Act to block voter registration efforts run by government is simply incorrect, as these efforts are not partisan activity.

They go off, fight for everyone’s right to vote (and suffer in the process), and when they return and are held up in a hospital, these troops are purposely isolated from the most basic democratic right.

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