In May 2008, Secretary of State Debra Bowen sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asking the agency to designate itself as a voter registration agency and begin offering voter registration services under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The designation helps ensure veterans who receive services from the agency's offices in a state have an equal opportunity to register to vote. This is particularly important for veterans who change their address when accepting federal benefits such as VA emergency housing, nursing home care, or rehabilitative care.
Under Presidential Executive Order 12926, the chief elections official of any state may ask a federal agency to designate itself as a voter registration agency and provide voter registration services. The Order requires federal agencies to accept the designation to the greatest extent practicable provided that doing so is consistent with the agency's legal authority and availability of funds.
On May 19, 2008, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs formally declined Secretary Bowen's request. However, in September 2008, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reversed course and issued a directive permitting elections officials and non-partisan groups to provide voter registration services at VA hospitals and in-patient locations.
Copies of Secretary Bowen's letter to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake and Secretary Peake's response to Secretary Bowen are below:
In September 2009, Secretary of State Bowen renewed her request to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and sent letters to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking these agencies to accept the designation as voter registration agencies under the NVRA and begin offering voter registration services.
Copies of Secretary Bowen's letters to the agencies are below: