Advocates fear COVID-19 protocols will restrict voting access for residents in long-term care facilities
by Amanda Su
Prior to COVID-19, nursing and personal care home residents could access the polls in a variety of ways, occasionally even by voting at their own facility if it was a designated polling place. Residents could also more easily receive assistance from visitors on completing their absentee ballots.
But now, with the November election fast approaching, pandemic safety protocols have restricted visitation and off-site travel and moved polling places away from nursing and personal care homes. A group of a dozen community organizations across Pennsylvania, including disability, aging, health and voting advocacy groups, argue in a letter sent to state officials Monday that these restrictions threaten to disenfranchise residents of long-term care facilities.
“Inaction will bar as many as 125,000 Pennsylvanians from access to what may be the most important election in their lifetimes,” states the letter, sent to Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa D. Miller and Department of State Secretary Kathy Boockvar.
In response, the Departments of Health, Human Services, and State wrote in an emailed statement to PublicSource that voting in Pennsylvania is now “more convenient, accessible, and secure” than ever before. The departments also wrote that residents of long-term care facilities can currently vote by absentee ballot or mail-in ballot.
“The Wolf Administration encourages every eligible Pennsylvanian to vote in the upcoming election, and we support all efforts of long-term care providers to assist and empower their residents to exercise this right,” the departments wrote. “We appreciate the concerns expressed in the letter and will consider the suggestions. We are committed to ensuring that all residents of long-term care facilities are able to vote, and are supported in that right.”
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