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AARP Interviews Professor Nina Kohn About Voting in Nursing Homes During a Pandemic

Posted on Thursday 9/24/2020
Nina Kohn

COVID-19 Threatens Voting in Nursing Homes as Election Approaches

(AARP | Sept. 23, 2020) In a normal election year, late summer and early fall would be a busy time for Annie Butzner. A retired nurse in Asheville, North Carolina, Butzner has for years traveled to nearby hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, helping patients and residents register to vote and request absentee ballots.

But this year the coronavirus pandemic has made that work more difficult. Butzner, 69, has had a hard time just getting into facilities to determine which residents need help registering and requesting ballots. “The fact that it's so hard to vote in care facilities is ridiculous,” she says. “All of the wisdom that these people have — it's just being wasted."

Butzner is part of a growing chorus of advocates, state officials and election experts worried about the voting roadblocks that COVID-19 presents to many of the nation's 1.3 million nursing home residents — and the specter that some won't be able to vote in this fall's general election. More than 800,000 other people live in other kinds of residential care communities, including assisted living facilities, and will likely also be affected.

"It's a bloody mess is what I would say,” Nina Kohn, a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law and a distinguished scholar in elder law at Yale Law School, says of the confusion around voting from nursing homes this year ...

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