April 2000/May 2000
Mission for Veterans: Get Out the Vote
By George C. Duggins
As the national elections will take place in November, now is the time for VVA
members to gear up the effort to make our voices heard in the future. Congress
is the direct link to vitally needed VA health-care resources that Vietnam
veterans, as we age, are using on an increasing basis. With every seat in the
U.S. House of Representatives up for grabs, one-third of the Senate seats,
and--of course--the presidency, VVA and all veterans need to put forth our best
effort to make a difference in this year's elections.
The experts say that only about sixty percent of those eligible to vote are
registered, and of those, only about half show up at the polls on Election Day.
In a close race, the winner often is elected by only fifteen-to-twenty percent
of eligible voters. Too often, those who don't vote are veterans.
Capitol Hill insiders told us two years ago that to many of our legislators,
veterans "don't matter," because it was their perception that
"veterans don't vote." We cannot allow that type of thinking to continue.
We must undertake an aggressive and highly visible public effort to register
voters and to encourage registered voters--especially veterans and their
That's why I'm reminding all VVA chapters and state councils to display
voter-registration material at every VVA event from now until November. This
goes for meetings, state and local fairs and carnivals, special holiday
celebrations, and parades--anywhere a booth or table can be set up. Veterans and
non-veterans should be signed up on the spot to vote. Registration materials are
widely available at local (city or county) elections offices free of charge. And
most election officials allow completed registrations to be delivered by
organizations such as VVA directly to the elections offices. "Vets
Vote" packets, including lapel pins and bumper stickers, are available from the
Members of Congress often begin their careers on the local level. That's why
it's important to involve local political leaders in our voter-registration
efforts. This shows them that veterans matter, that we mean business, and that
we can pay large dividends in the future when these local politicians move into
state and national offices. A few evenings or weekends spent registering voters
at a card table outside your local grocery store will help ensure vital veterans
services are there for you and other veterans and their families in the future.
Veterans have a tremendous impact on the non-veteran population, especially
young people. When veterans stand up for something, it gives that cause greater
meaning because of the respect we, who have put our lives on the line for our
nation, have earned. "Veterans Vote!" is more than a slogan. It is a
mission. Remember: If veterans don't care, who will?