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How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts (When You’re in a Retirement Home)

While all elections are important, the 2020 presidential election promises to be a unique and pivotal moment in American history, with more people than ever are focused on making sure that their voices are heard at the ballot box. With this said, some demographics have more obstacles when it comes to voting.

Seniors in assisted living are such a group. Unlike seniors who may be on their own, they may not have the ability to simply go in their car and drive to the local polling place. Concerns about COVID-19, especially for seniors, add another wrinkle to the situation. So, with this said, here are some options that seniors have to make sure their vote counts, even if they are in assisted living.

Absentee Ballots

Before getting into how to cast an absentee ballot from an assisted living facility, you want to make sure you are properly registered to vote. Moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility counts as an address change, and you will need to mark that change in order for your vote to be counted. This can be done by mail or online (in some states) for those who have difficulty filing the changes in person. Here is a list of how to register in each state.

The easiest way for people in an assisted living facility to cast their votes is through voting by mail. In the past, you would have to qualify for an absentee ballot in order to vote by mail (most seniors automatically qualify by virtue of their age). However, with COVID-19 present, vote-by-mail is more popular and accessible than ever.

When you receive your mail ballot, be sure to read the instructions carefully to make sure you fill your ballot out correctly and send it within the security and outer envelopes. Failing to do this properly could mean that your ballot isn’t counted.

In 23 states, there is an option for mobile polling. This allows for supervised absentee voting in your assisted living facility. This can be a great asset for people who want to vote but may require added assistance. However, mobile polling is generally based on demand, so ownership will have to get in contact with your local elections office.

Voting Early

Some seniors are used to voting in person and have trouble with a mail-in ballot. If you can secure transportation from friends or family, early voting at your county election office is also a possibility in 37 states. Just make sure to bring protective gear and try to avoid large crowds.

Going To The Polls On Election Day

Lastly, many assisted living facilities generally have some sort of transportation arrangement in order to bring their residents to the polls on Election Day. With this said, COVID-19 concerns mean that those programs may be suspended this year. If you want to go to vote in person, be sure to ask ahead of time if transportation is allowed.

If not, you may still be able to have a friend or family member with transportation bring you to a polling place, but again, you want to check in with your assisted living facility first. In some cases, there may be rules regarding whether or not you are able to go right into your assisted living facility right after going into a public area. 

Let’s say that there are no such restrictions, and you are able to secure transport to the polls. Here are some important general steps to take:

  • Bring protective gear like gloves and a mask. It’s also a good idea to bring your own pen so you can contact as few shared surfaces as possible. 
  • Try and plan a time to go to the polls where there won’t be a lot of other people present. If you’re using transportation your facility provides, you may not have an option, but if you are going with a friend or family member, you can try to go around midday.
  • Go as fast as possible. For those with mobility issues, you may require extra time to vote, but try to avoid spending extra time talking with poll workers or other voters.

If you have a disability and require help voting, in most states, you can bring someone with you to help as long as they are not on the ballot as a candidate. Alternatively, you can ask the election officials on site.

While assisted living generally has all the amenities and support that seniors need for happy and fulfilling lives, every now and then, something comes up that they may not be able to manage in this setting alone. Doing their civic duty falls into this category, but there are a variety of different methods to still make sure that your vote is counted.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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