The numbers regarding the elderly population in America are quite staggering. Between the years 2000 and 2050, it is projected that there will be an increase of around 147 percent in the number of Americans aged 65 or older. Currently, there are about 37.3 million people in this age group, equivalent to 12 percent of our total population. But by 2050, that number is projected to be around 86.7 million… and 21 percent of the population.
It’s crucial that each of these voices be heard. Whether you are one of those currently 65-and-older people or projected to be, your vote matters.
What Is the issue, exactly?
Older Americans are historically more likely to turn out in the polls than their younger counterparts, that’s a pretty well-known fact. But residents in long-term care facilities can have a harder time casting their ballot, no thanks to health and mobility issues. This may be especially true in the 2020 election season as the pandemic has tightened so many restrictions around so many things.
In the past, many long-term care facilities served as polling places, which was a win/win and made it really easy for residents to vote. But if they wanted to make an outing of it and travel to a different polling place, that was an option for them too. Residents might have also asked loved ones to bring them a mail-in ballot when they visited.
But because of the risks, this year the polling stations have been moved elsewhere. Many facilities have been locked down, with some visitation restricted, meaning residents cannot necessarily work with their family and friends to get a mail-in ballot.
The ACLU says: “The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Help America Vote Act make clear that elderly voters and voters with disabilities have the same right to a private and independent ballot as everyone else.”
What should you do to ensure that you can exercise your right to vote this election season?
Voting rights during the pandemic
Because of the state of things today, naturally it falls to the care facility to provide their residents with assistance in voting. Hopefully, they already have a plan in place for requesting, completing, and returning mail-in ballots.
But if you are homebound, or are otherwise on your own and in need of an absentee ballot, begin at https://www.whenweallvote.org/vrh/. When We All Vote is a resource that can help you register to vote, request a mail-in ballot, and even track the status of your ballot. Because of the pandemic, many states have made it even easier to vote by mail. This site lets you look at your state’s individual requirements as they stand right now.
If you didn’t already know, every state allows for some form of absentee voting. But because of certain rules or requirements, this may not be possible for you. For instance, if it is too close to the voting deadline when you request an absentee ballot. If you find yourself in this situation, your facility must make reasonable accommodations to assist you in casting your ballot in person.
If help is not forthcoming, you’ll want to review your facility’s care agreement and get upper management involved immediately. As you know, time is of the essence where voting is concerned.
Once you have been able to cast your vote, your next course of action should be to contact your local ombudsman. An ombudsman listens to your concerns and advocates for you. They bring your case in front of the people who can do the most to change things.
The National Consumer Voice For Quality Long-Term Care is an ombudsman resource center and an advocate for people in long-term care. They tirelessly work with facilities, nation-wide, to make voting easy for their residents, among many other things. If you’re not already familiar with Consumer Voice, you can learn more at https://theconsumervoice.org/.
As an American, you have the right to vote, and an obligation to do so whenever possible. Your long-term care facility should make that an easy process for you, and if they don’t, you have a right and obligation to tell someone. Not just for your own sake but for those who come after you. Make your important voice heard.
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