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Chris Murphy Announces Legislation to Lift Ban on VA Voter Regristration Drives
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Congressman Chris Murphy with Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz: Photo by Diane OrsonCongressman Chris Murphy with Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz: Photo by Diane OrsonCongressman Chris Murphy announced Tuesday that he’s sponsoring federal legislation to lift the ban on voter registration drives at veterans’ centers.

A new directive by the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs bans non-partisan voter registration drives at VA hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters. The policy’s faced sharp criticism nationwide. Standing on the Cheshire town green, Congressman Chris Murphy says he’s introducing new legislation, the Veteran Voting Support Act that would repeal the ban

"Organizations with long nonpartisan traditions like voter registration officials, registrars of voters, the Secretary of State’s office, and historically nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters..we’re talking about allowing truly nonpartisan organizations to be able to go into veterans facilities and register these veterans."

Murphy says the legislation will be put on the fast track in Washington. Waterbury resident Joe Nolan supports the idea.

"I’m a veteran. But I’m also a Gold Star father. My son was killed in Iraq three and a half years ago. And I think anything we can do to help veterans is a good thing. If we can have voter registration drives for other groups of people in the country, why can’t we have it for veterans?"

Representative Murphy’s legislation mirrors a similar bill in the senate co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kerry was New Haven on Monday.

"Its really a matter of just information and freedom. I mean it’s a simple matter of choice. If anybody’s got the right to make that choice and knows what they want or don’t want I think its people who serve their country and are wounded in a veterans hospital or whatever their status is."

Veterans’ officials say the ban is based in part on the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. They’ve also suggested that voter drives could disrupt operations at VA facilities.