Viewer Ellen H. sent VERIFY this question:
“I was wondering if nursing home residents get the chance to vote? If yes how do they vote? Is it by mail-in ballot or can they vote in person if able? Thank you!”
Voting for seniors in nursing homes is different this year given the risks the COVID-19 pandemic poses to those in nursing homes. The VERIFY team broke down how people in nursing homes normally vote and changes to how they vote this year.
How do nursing home residents vote?
In most elections, nursing home residents have the option of voting absentee by mail, taking transportation to a voting place, or voting within the nursing home itself.
This year, nursing home residents are likely relying on absentee ballots, however, mobile polling teams can still bring voting to the nursing home itself and there are still opportunities for residents to get to the polls.
Ultimately, it varies by state and community. If you want to ensure someone you know in a nursing home gets to vote, double-check what options local laws give you.
WHAT WE FOUND
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the most common way for residents to vote is by absentee ballot. However, they also say another method by which nursing home residents can vote is through mobile polling. The method is also known as supervised absentee voting, which is only permitted in some states.
Mobile polling is when a bipartisan team of workers trained by local election officials assists residents with voting within the nursing home itself. That way residents can get whatever help they need to vote without leaving the facility.
The AARP adds that in a typical election year, nursing home residents may vote in person by caravanning to the polls or with the help of friends or family. They can also vote within their own facility if the nursing home is a registered voting center. The organization also says they help with mail-in voting and assisted voting as described by the NCSL.
Earlier this month, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum affirming the continued right for nursing home residents to vote amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The memorandum says, “Nursing homes should have a plan to ensure residents can exercise their right to vote, whether in-person, by mail, absentee, or other authorized process.”
CMS suggests both mobile polling and organizational assistance in registering to vote as well as requesting and filling out absentee ballots. They add that nursing homes are required to support a resident's right to vote, such as by assisting with absentee or mail-in ballots or by transporting residents safely to ballot drop-boxes or polling locations. They add that social distancing should still be maintained if the facility chooses to transport fewer residents during trips.
CMS also stresses that nursing home residents must be able to fill out mail-in ballots. The organization says, "for residents who are otherwise unable to cast their ballots in person, nursing homes must ensure residents have the right to receive and send their ballots via the U.S. Postal Service."
Those who are hospitalized just before or on Election Day also have an option to still get their vote in. The National Conference of State Legislatures says there are 38 states that allow patients to request emergency absentee ballots. These allow people to request absentee ballots after the normal deadline because of a personal emergency.
Some states will also give hospitalized patients different options. In some states, election officials will deliver absentee ballots to hospitalized patients. In other states, the hospitalized patient can choose a family member to assist with requesting, delivering and submitting an absentee ballot.
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