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California: 9th Circuit upholds VA's ban on voter registration drives (opinion linked)

A Palo Alto Daily News report begins: A federal appeals court has upheld a Veterans Administration policy barring voter registration drives inside its hospitals, concluding the rule does not violate the First Amendment.

In a unanimous three-judge decision Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the VA policy, which came under attack four years ago when Santa Clara County's Democratic Central Committee tried to conduct voter registration at the VA's facility in Menlo Park. VA officials barred the registration, citing a rule that prohibits partisan political activity at VA hospitals.

The legal conflict arose from an attempt by Steve Preminger, the committee's chair, and Scott Rafferty, a Democratic Party lawyer, to register veterans at the hospital. When VA officials discovered that Rafferty wore a John Kerry button and was affiliated with the Democratic Party, they determined the registration effort violated their policy.

Preminger could not be reached for comment Friday, but Rafferty expressed disappointment, saying further appeals are a possibility, particularly with another presidential election looming. -- Palo Alto Daily News

The opinion (No. 08-15714, Preminger v. Peake) is available here.

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