Although voting is the hallmark of a democracy- it isn’t easy if you are in a long-term care facility. Nursing home and other long-term care facility residents face several challenges to voting- from registering to vote to actually casting a ballot.
When you move into a nursing home or assisted living facility- your address changes- which means you probably need to register to vote based on the new address. You can register in person- by mail- or- in some states- online. To register in person- visit your local elections office or your local department of motor vehicles. To find out where to register in your state- go here: http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/contact_your_state.aspx.
Alternatively- there is a national voter registration application that you can use to register by mail. The form includes state-specific instructions. Finally- more than 30 states- including Virginia- have online registration.
Once you are registered- you still need to physically cast your ballot. This can be difficult if you have trouble leaving your facility. There are several methods that nursing home residents may be able to use to vote. All states allow absentee voting- but the requirements are different in each state. Some states- including Virginia- require an excuse –- such as a physical disability — to vote absentee. In many states being at least aged 60 to 65 (depending on the state)- is a reason to qualify for an absentee ballot- though this would not be true in Virginia.
Twenty-three states- allow mobile polling– which is supervised absentee voting conducted in the residential facility. Mobile polling is often based on demand- so to get mobile polling in your facility- contact your local elections office. Mobile polling is not available in Virginia- though curbside voting is available for individuals who are age 65 and above.
If it is difficult for you to get to the polls on Election Day- 37 states offer early voting. Early voting allows voters to visit an election office and vote in person without providing an excuse. This can give you the flexibility to vote when it works for you. Virginia does not allow early voting.
For more information about your right to vote while in long-term care- the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has fact sheets on How to Register to Vote and How to Cast a Vote.