Christine Stuart photo

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal were outraged Friday at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ response to the state’s request to conduct voter registration and education drives at the VA hospital in West Haven.

In this letter, Roger Johnson, director of the VA Connecticut healthcare system, said “the VA is committed to assisting VA inpatients and residents with voter registration. On the other hand, a determination has been made that broader voter registration efforts, ‘drives,’ of outpatients, staff, visitors, and the community should not occur.” He goes on to explain that he expects inpatients and residents to “use absentee ballots,” and that the “demonstration of the voting machines will not be pursued at this time.”

Blumenthal said the VA’s response is “blatantly illegal—mocking clear constitutional rights, and disrespecting our veterans.” He said the letters he received from both Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake and Mr. Johnson, were “disingenuous doubletalk and bureaucratic gobblygook.”

Bysiewicz said the VA offered to let her become a volunteer at the facility if she signed this form saying that she would not encourage veterans to vote. “I would never sign a bogus form like that,” she said.

The volunteer form also says volunteers may only register voters who request it. She said the VA’s policy on registering its veterans to vote is insulting and goes against the rights our veterans have fought so hard to keep.

Blumenthal said if the VA doesn’t change its policies by Aug. 1, the state will take legal action to ensure these veterans have an opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

“To respect constitutional rights, the VA should go back to boot camp,” Blumenthal said. “Where veterans deserve a clear path to the voting booth, the VA has laid a maze and minefield of regulatory barricades and booby traps.”