FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2009
SCHUMER URGES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR VETERANS TO REGISTER TO VOTE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), the chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to increase veterans' participation in elections by authorizing federal offices across the country that administer veterans benefits to also provide voter registration materials.
The National Voter Registration Act requires that designated social service agencies assist in the voter registration process by making materials available to eligible voters who visit their locations. The law, also known as the "Motor-Voter" Act because it enables eligible voters to register at the time they apply for a driver's license, gives the President discretion over which agencies to tap for this purpose. Veterans' offices are not currently designated as voter registration sites. Schumer urged President Obama, through an executive order, to change this policy and include veterans' affairs offices among the specially designated agencies.
“It is unconscionable that our men and women in uniform are not able to participate as voters in the very democracy they have fought to protect," Schumer wrote.
"This process can be engaged by a stroke of your pen," Schumer added.
According to the most up-to-date census figures available, 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.
In his letter to the President, Schumer also suggested that other non-designated agencies also be tapped to assist with voter registration. For instance, Schumer said Native Americans could be reached in greater numbers through regional offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Health and Human Services could assist with registering individuals with disabilities.