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Friday, September 16, 2011

Veterans with ID Cards Not Good Enough to Vote, Says GOP

Not good enough, says GOP
As civil rights challenges to Republican-authored photo ID-voter suppression laws continue, the exclusion of veterans who have only a U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Veterans Identification Card (VIC) from voting is drawing increasing criticism.

In Wisconsin a VIC, used by veterans to obtain health care at VA medical facilities, is not sufficient to vote, notwithstanding veterans' service to our country. Wisconsin's restricting many veterans from voting is identical to numerous other GOP-passed laws such as Texas.

"The [Texas] law also prohibits veterans from using their ID card from the Department of Veterans Affairs to vote, even though it is a government-issued photo ID. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) urged the state legislature to pass the law as an 'emergency item' and submitted the law to the U.S. Justice Department for 'pre-clearance' last month," writes Tanya Somanader.

Emergency. Voter suppression. Republicans are playing the same tune in states across the nation.

I think our veterans deserve better.

"Photo IDs issued by the Department of Veteran Affairs ... are not acceptable photo ID for voting purposes," reads the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board informational site on the new photo ID requirements that are operative in next year's presidential primary election.

"Yes, the legislature did not include veterans' IDs as acceptable photo IDs for voting purposes," confirms Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the GAB, in a phone conversation this afternoon.

Magney didn't say it but it is the Republicans alone in the legislature who unanimously voted for the suppression disallowing veterans' VICs as sufficient to vote, with the unanimous Democratic bloc of legislators voting against the suppression bill.

Magney said the GAB will work with communities of interest in outreach efforts to work with veterans, such as homeless veterans who comprise "between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night—representing between one fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people," according the National Coalition for the Homeless.

But as a veterans' advocate and as someone who worked last year as a census enumerator of the homeless, I can tell you that homeless veterans are a tough demographic to reach out to and inform about the free IDs they might be able to get at their local Dept of Motor Vehicle centers, if they ask.

"I got my VA [VIC] card and that's it," said a homeless man to me on West Washington Street near the capitol in the Spring of 2010. "I don't want the government to know where I am."

The man later explained he was Vietnam War veteran and didn't trust "anybody" associated with the "government," and didn't want to tell me his name. He was waiting near a church for a free dinner.

Regardless of whether this particular veteran would vote [I doubt he would], excluding disaffected veterans from voting by law is contemptible.

I would ask if the Republicans have no shame, but the answer is obvious.

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