Quarterly Risk Managment Tip
Are Your Ready to Assist Your Residents with Voting?
Americans will soon have the chance to exercise one of their most basic rights by voting for the candidates of their choice. That right is not lost or given up when someone enters a long-term care facility, even if mental or physical barriers impede the resident's ability to cast a ballot without some type of assistance.
All U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote and have not been judged mentally incompetent to vote must first register to vote in person, by mail or online. While mental competency is an eligibility requirement for voting, it's important to note that competency is in regard to voting and not competency in general. Typically, the resident's physician can make that determination.
Some states have specific laws specifying who can assist long-term care residents with voting. However, most states allow a designated staff member from a facility to assist residents in registering to vote, as long as that staff member is an agent of the voter's choosing.
Overall, facilities are encouraged or even mandated to provide information on upcoming elections. Some facilities invite candidates to speak to the residents and/or host debate-watching events. Others even provide opportunities for residents to see sample ballots or use standard voting equipment to increase their comfort levels.
Some residents may be mobile enough to be transported to and from designated polling sites, though most will vote through absentee voting. Mobile polling, also known as supervised absentee voting, is the most common form of assistance in long-term care facilities.
While staff members are generally allowed to assist residents with voting based on their state's laws and governances, there is a limit. No state allows a caregiver to influence a resident's vote or mark a ballot in any way other than instructed by the resident. Staff members also should not disclose to anyone how the resident voted. In fact, it can be illegal to coerce a voter while providing assistance.
Check with your state agencies to inquire about resident voting so that your staff members know what they can and cannot do to prepare for the upcoming elections.