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PVA Applauds Increased Access to Voter Registration for Veterans with Disabilities
September 30, 2022 by Lee Page, Senior Associate Advocacy Director

In honor of National Voter Registration Day, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced expanded opportunities for veterans who use certain VA facilities to register to vote. PVA members are honorably discharged veterans who have a spinal cord injury (SCI) or disorder. Many of them use VA medical centers for recovery, rehabilitation, and their ongoing health care needs. The right to vote is the corner stone of our democracy and we support efforts to ensure disabled veterans have access to the ballot. 

Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in 1993 requiring state departments of motor vehicles and other agencies that provide state social services, including services for people with disabilities, to offer voter registration. The Act also required states to allow voter registration through the mail. This made it much easier for people to register to vote, and change registration when moving. The VA was not named in the NVRA and did not have to comply with the law. 

Earlier this year, President Biden issued Executive Order 14019, Promoting Access to Voting, which is a unified government effort to make voting more accessible to all Americans. The President suggests that federal agencies expand access to registration by promoting efforts to utilize Vote.gov, which is the national voter registration form established under NVRA. 

For its part, the VA has entered into partnerships with Michigan, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to create pilot voter registration programs at all VA healthcare facilities in these states to provide voter registration information, materials, and assistance, if needed. There is currently no timeline defined by the VA to expand beyond these pilot states. 

PVA has been working directly with the VA on improving access to voting since the Veterans Health Administration Directive, Voting Assistance for VA Inpatients and Residents, was issued in 2019. PVA’s Chapters and national service officers have sought support from the VA Voluntary Service Office to ensure our members who are inpatients and residents receive information on voter registration and voting. Due to complications with SCI and related disorders, some PVA members are in VA medical centers for extended periods of time or long-term care facilities. Even so, they must continue to have access to the ballot.

In addition, PVA has a long history of voter access advocacy, including supporting passage of the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Help America Vote Act. These laws guarantee polling place physical accessibility and require accessible voting systems, such as one accessible polling booth per polling place for people with physical disabilities and those who are blind or low vision. To learn more about VA voter registration opportunities, please visit VA.gov
 

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