Voting Rights in Long-Term Care Facilities
by Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman
"We are in the first week of October and the election is November 8, just around the corner," said certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "Rhode island's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Kathleen Heren penned an excellent guest blog on voting rights in Long-Term Care facilities that we want to repeat for our readers. This is also a twofer, as October is also National Special Needs Law Month, and this guest blog also kicks that off for us. The purpose of the Special Needs Law Month observance is to educate those with special needs, their families, and caregivers about ways to protect their rights and advocate for those with special needs. With that in mind, we present Ms. Heren's excellent blog on voting rights."
Election season is quickly approaching. Long-term care facilities must work with residents to ensure they are able to vote. The offices of The Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Disability Rights Rhode Island, and Rhode Island Board of Elections held a training session last month for staff at Rhode Island nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Why train?
Covid has caused a large turnover in staffing, some retired and others for varied reasons. With the influx of inexperienced staff, it is critical they understand their responsibility in securing their residents’ voting rights.
Just because someone resides in a facility does not mean they lose their right to vote. There are many misconceptions that surround the responsibility of the facility. This was an ideal training session to correct those misconceptions. Some areas which were covered in the training session pertain to new voting accommodations which can assist the resident with voting, how mental health issues can affect voting rights, and finally mail ballot voting - including emergency mail ballot applications.
I encourage families or responsible parties to communicate with the staff in their loved one’s facility about voting rights. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to speak up if you feel as though your loved one is being denied the right to vote.
In closing, many residents in long-term care facilities are the same people who fought in wars so we could preserve our right to vote. It would be a shame to have them miss voting because of staff not being familiar with assisting them. In these troubled times, our votes become even more precious. Whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents we have the right to vote. Please contact our office with any questions. New Information will be on our website as it becomes available.
You can also call Disability Rights Rhode Island at 401-831-3150 and the Rhode Island Board of Elections at 401-222-1904 if you have questions on voting rights. My office is available to help you with any concerns you may have. Our number is (401) 785-3340, Toll-free (888) 351-0808. I can also be reached by e-mail: email@example.com
Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman
Office of the RI State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program
Alliance for Better Long Term Care Inc
422 Post Road Suite 204
Warwick, RI 02888
Ms. Heren provides a monthly guest blog to Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. in which she discusses issues and topics that come across her desk as the Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman. The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are those of the author(s) only. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. or its employees.