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James Peake is a man with a plan – and it truly is a sorry one.
Peake is George W’s secretary of veteran affairs, and he has recently issued an edict banning voter registration efforts inside veterans hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, and homeless shelters. Yes, veterans who were sent to war in the name of defending freedom; veterans who did their duty, with many suffering physical and mental harm; veterans whom Bush tells us we must honor – those veterans are to be barred by their own agency from getting the help they need to participate in America’s political process.
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All across the country, both non-partisan groups and political groups of all stripes have routinely been allowed inside these public facilities to help vets register. However, Peake now wants to shut democracy’s door on our country’s ailing veterans.
The agency’s May 5 directive reads like a page of newspeak ripped from Orwells’s 1984. It opens with a shining declaration that VA policy is “to assist patients who seek to exercise their right to register and vote.” Then, in a clanging autocratic reversal, it declares: “However, due to Hatch Act requirements and to avoid disruptions to facility operations, voter registration drives are not permitted.”
The Hatch Act? That’s the law that bans federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Maybe Secretary Peake is unaware that the patients under his care are not federal employees. They’re veterans, with full Constitutional rights. Secondly, would someone please inform the obviously-befuddled secretary that registering people to vote is not a partisan activity?
In fact, maybe you’d like to inform him yourself and also suggest that he get out of the way of groups helping vets exercise their freedoms. Contact Secretary Peake at : 202-273-4800.
“V.A. Ban on Voter Drives Is Criticized,” The New York Times, June 13, 2008.