Despite VA Claim of Changed Policy, Vet Group Forced to File 'Emergency Motion' as Barriers Erected to Keep Non-Profit Group From Registering Vets at San Francisco Facility...
By John Gideon on 9/15/2008, 10:02am PT  

Blogged By John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

Despite last week's agreement by the Dept. of Veteran Affairs to follow federal law --- after months of pressure from vet groups, members of Congress, and the public --- and relent to allow voter registration drives on the department's federal facilities, The BRAD BLOG has learned that the department is continuing to block non-partisan groups access to our wounded warriors in order to sign up voters. With most voter registration deadlines for the general election just one month away, the continuing stonewall, in this case by the San Francisco VA, continues to outrage.

The non-partisan Veterans for Peace organization has now been forced to file an emergency motion with the court in order to gain access. They contacted us this morning with the following statement...

Preminger Seeks Enforcement of Court Mandate Against VA Interference with Voter Registration Drives

By Scott Rafferty, attorney | Press Release
PUBLISHED: September 15, 2008

WASHINGTON – On September 12, 2008, the San Francisco VA prohibited Veterans for Peace (“VFP”) from registering voters, even though a recent “directive” instructs local officials to “facilitate” nonpartisan groups who wish to register voters. VFP is 501(c)(3) humanitarian and educational organization. VA officials told VFP that their visit would be delayed for at least 12 days by an investigation into each visitors “political activities” and a tuberculosis test, which requires two medical appointments. This violates a February 2008 court mandate.

In February 2008, the Federal Circuit in Washington held that VA cannot impose special requirements on visitors because of the content of their message. The Federal Circuit ruled that the VA cannot use its rule against “unauthorized demonstrations” to interfere with voter registration unless there is physical “disturbance” that also offends “decorum and decency.”

Today’s emergency motion seeks to enforce that order.

"Having registered only 414 veterans nationwide, the VA needs all the help it can get," notes the press release from VFP, which continues in full below...

Steve Preminger, a California labor organizer, has litigated for four years to ensure that all veterans living on VA property have access to voter registration. Judicial review of VA actions is split between the Federal Circuit in Washington and the federal district courts, enabling the VA to take inconsistent positions – telling each court that the other has jurisdiction. As a result, neither court has reviewed the VA’s use of “directives” instead of rulemaking processes that require the VA to consider public comments. “The VA has played legal ping-pong for four years,” said Preminger’s attorney, Scott Rafferty.

Rafferty explained today’s motion: “Even political parties can register voters on VA campuses, because the Federal Circuit unanimously rejected the VA’s position that is can ban ‘partisan activity’ that wasn’t a criminal ‘disturbance.’ By excluding the nonpartisan Veterans for Peace, the VA shows that the VA is interested in keeping veterans from voting, not preventing ‘partisan activity,’ which it has no right to do.

“The time-critical issue is giving every veteran a chance to register before the deadlines next month, as the VA promised to last May. Having registered only 414 veterans nationwide, the VA needs all the help it can get.

“Veterans’ experience in war gives them a powerful voice. The VA wants to stop them from using their right to speak out and to vote. The VA knows that many veterans oppose the Administration’s conduct of the War, the overextension of the military, and its inadequate support for returning warriors.”

Mr. Preminger attempted to register voters on a nonpartisan basis on April 15, 2004. The Democratic Party joined the suit to protect the rights of members and potential members who were confined to the nursing home and had no assistance in obtaining and completing voter registration forms.

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