COVID Is Killing Nursing Home Residents’ Ability to Vote
The handling of the COVID pandemic is an issue that is driving a lot of voters to the polls in this year’s elections, but it might actually be contributing to suppressing the vote for the residents of nursing homes. The elderly have proven to be the most susceptible to COVID, and nowhere has that been more evident than at nursing homes, where an estimated 68,000 have died. Sadly, the health danger of crowded polling locations, restrictions on visitors, and changes to the post office, are likely to make it difficult for voters in nursing homes.
No In-Person Voting for Residents
Despite physical and mental challenges, nursing home residents have always been able to vote. In this year of COVID protections, nursing home residents are under lock-down and most residents will be prohibited from casting their vote at the polls, where long lines and dense crowds would be far too dangerous for the elderly voters and too great a risk for nursing homes. To make matters worse, mail-in voting has a brand-new set of challenges, due to COVID.
Mail-In Voting Obstacles
Nursing homes have a legal duty to provide voting opportunities for residents, but according to an article in ProPublica, this rule is often ignored, regulators rarely enforce the rule, and violations are given little priority when found. To make matters worse, the Trump administration has taken controversial cost-cutting measures to the U.S. Post Office in the months just prior to the election, which has put into question whether the Post Office can deliver mail-in ballots on time, given the larger than normal number of mail-in ballots that are expected due to COVID concerns at crowded polls.
Many nursing home residents have physical or mental limitations, such as vision issues, or difficulty navigating the various forms and processes to vote by mail. There is also the issue of fulfilling the requirement of a witness. Residents of nursing homes had regularly relied on family members, visitors, and election volunteers to help them vote by mail. This year, none of those people will be able to enter the facility to assist. This leaves residents to navigate the vote-by-mail process on their own or with the help of the nursing home staff. In some states, there are strict rules limiting staff member assistance, to protect the intent of the voter, but this type of policy might silence more votes than it protects.
A Major Voting Block Could Be Disenfranchised
The elderly members of nursing homes could have a major impact on election day, given the opportunity to vote. They are from a demographic that is well represented at the polls, and they are the most gravely affected by the COVID pandemic, which has been a major issue in the runup to the election. As ProPublica pointed out, “Most, though not all, of the roughly 2.2 million Americans living in nursing homes or assisted living communities are elderly — and thus at higher risk of dying from the coronavirus. They’re also part of the most politically engaged demographic in the country. In 2018, 66% of Americans over 65 voted, compared with just 35% of those 18 to 29.”
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.
If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options. To contact our team, call (410) 213-3242 today for a consultation.
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