How are people in nursing homes casting their ballot?

Posted at 3:04 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 21:21:45-04

NORWOOD, Ohio — Advocates say some people in nursing homes could face threats to voting due to staffing shortages.

Dimity Orlet, executive director of Pro Seniors, said many facilities are struggling just to meet their regular daily needs. Advocates from Pro Seniors said staffing at most nursing homes is near the legal minimum.

“So we're concerned as, where does that leave residents who do have a right to vote,” Orlet said.

Hamilton County Board of Elections sent election packets to 108 facilities over the summer, but 30 of them did not respond until last week. Staff at three of those homes said they helped every resident who wanted to vote do so with absentee ballots.

Gwen McFarlin, chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said she’s seen something similar happen with people who are hospitalized with COVID-19.

"She's (a patient) been there for three weeks. She called to let us know where she was and we have worked out an arrangement with that hospital that she is in to make sure that she gets her ballot,” McFarlin said.

Options for senior citizens who are isolated usually include bi-partisan teams who bring seniors ballots for in-person voting in nursing homes, but few places allow it during the pandemic. In those cases, Ohio allows election managers to train nursing home staff to do the work for patients in private.

"Basically two people working at the nursing home who are in opposite political parties, we are training them to be special precinct election officials so that they can assist the voters in nursing homes,” said Sherry Poland, director of Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Still, some advocates worry people will be overlooked, and they’re encouraging loved ones to step up.

"I think this is a good opportunity for family members to check in … I think all of us know how important it is for all of us to have a voice in the election, and seniors have every bit that right,” Orlet said.