Indiana currently has a bill pending (IndianaSenate Bill No. 366 Proof of Identification for nursing facility residents) which, if passed, could realistically change accessibility of voting by long-term care residents. As of the writing of this post, the bill has had its first reading and was in committee. If passed, the effective date for implementation is scheduled for July 1, 2013.
Synopsis: Proof of identification for absentee voters. Provides that a voter who votes at a licensed care facility in which the voter lives must give proof of identification. (Under current law, such a voter is exempt from the proof of identification requirement.) Requires a voter who casts an absentee ballot by mail (other than a military or overseas voter or an address confidentiality voter) to provide a photocopy of the voter's proof of identification in the mailing envelope.
Under Resident Rights, F151 Exercise of Rights states
This issue is different than requiring the general population to show proof of identification. Mandating that residents of nursing facilities must provide proof of identification when submitting an absentee ballot, voting by a traveling voting board, or voting at their own facility when it's a polling place will drastically affect their rights as a citizen.
Believing that nursing facility residents can easily obtain identification is neither realistic nor feasible. In general, they are not able to obtain proof of identification that would meet the legal standard as it is currently defined. The vast majority of residents are not able to physically go to the BMV, nor would there be easily accessible/affordable transportation (another Indiana issue for another day) available even for the few who could go. There would also be regulatory logistics to deal with, i.e. obtaining MD orders for leave of absences, a caregiver to accompany the resident, approval from guardians/power of attorneys, etc. The list could go on.
If passed as currently written, this bill would essentially disenfranchise nursing facility residents - a population that has generally spent their lives voting in each and every election. I have worked with thousands of residents over the years and I can't express how many are proud to tell me that they have never missed an election since they were 18. I have had folks not be able to remember their most recent meal or their grandchild's name, but they could tell me whether they were a Republican or Democrat. They could still share the reason that they missed 'just that one' election. They could still listen to the platforms the candidates had and form opinions about who they planned to vote for.
The theme for the 2012 National Long-Term Care Residents’ Right Month was ‘My Voice, My Vote, My Right’. The focus was on ensuring that residents in nursing facilities still have the right to vote and participate politically. It stressed the importance of giving them the opportunity to continue to participate in the political process and that voting continue to be accessible to them. It seems that if this bill were to pass, we will have taken a step backward from what was just promoted as a national theme by advocates less than a year ago.
If the legislature feels that the current exemption has not been adequate, there could be other alternatives. Speak with those of us in the industry and listen to our potential alternative options. Gain insight from Social Service Directors and Activity Directors at facilities. I would anticipate that the responses would be similar.
Assistance and attention to their voting rights helps to ensure that the voices of long-term care residents do not go unheard and demonstrates that they have not been forgotten. I would urge the legislature to not allow another right, another choice to be taken away from these residents.
*This post was written without a political agenda - simply a deep concern from someone with a passion for protecting the rights of our residents in Indiana long-term care facilities.
Need assistance with Residents Rights compliance in your nursing facility? Could you benefit from a QA check of your resident voting process? Due for the mandatory annual Resident Rights in-service? Contact Simmons Healthcare Consulting, LLC, and we’ll begin to help improve Quality of Life services for your residents.