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WA Volunteers Ensure Veterans’ Votes Count

August 4, 2008

American Lake, WA – A pilot program is underway in the Seattle area to help veterans who want to vote in this year's elections, but find themselves hospitalized and unable to register or vote without assistance. Members of the League of Women Voters have received training from the King County Elections office to register the vets, including getting absentee ballots from other states if necessary.

Jeff Honeycutt is director of voluntary service for the V.A.'s Puget Sound Health System, which is a federal facility. artment of Veterans Affairs. He says veterans often come to Washington for specialized treatment, so the volunteers will find the patients could be from anywhere.

"It's just getting training to make sure that they know where to look for the forms that veterans will need based on their state of residence, and what they're trying to do to be able to assist them."

Under the current rules, a veteran has to ask for the assistance. Honeycutt says they haven't gotten any requests yet, but but they're ready.

"We are making that information available – it's posted on all of the different inpatient units, and it's something that they would be notified of, upon admission to our facility. As Election Day comes, if veterans feel that they are going to be hospitalized over that time, we would certainly expect to receive a few requests for assistance."

Last month, a bill (S 3308) was introduced in Congress to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide voter registration for hospitalized vets; Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is among the cosponsors. The V.A.'s national office won't allow voter registration drives at its locations, but will allow nonpartisan volunteers to register individual veterans, on request.

There are four federal VA hospitals in Washington – two in Seattle, and one each in Spokane and Walla Walla. The rule applies only to the federal VA hospitals, not state-run veterans' facilities. The League of Women Voters says it's been a busy year for voter outreach, including at retirement homes and churches.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA