Professor Nina Kohn in WaPo: Coronavirus Might Keep Nursing Homes Residents from Voting
Coronavirus isolated nursing home residents—Now it might keep them from voting
By Professor Nina Kohn
(The Washington Post | Oct. 14, 2020) It has been a brutal year for residents of nursing homes. More than 40 percent of coronavirus deaths are associated with long-term care facilities. Forced isolation, including bans on family visits, has led to a secondary epidemic of loneliness and neglect. Now, nursing home residents face yet another indignity: the prospect that they will be unable to vote in the presidential election.
Nursing home residents have always faced challenges voting — because of limited mobility, physical infirmity and the restrictive reality of institutional life. But there were many ways to get help: Residents who were mobile and had access to transportation could vote at general polling places, families could freely visit to help residents vote by mail, and, in some states, election officials conducted voting in nursing homes. Now, the novel coronavirus has changed much of that: In-person voting risks infection, and visitors who might help with mail-in voting are barred from many homes. Short-staffed and still concentrating on other challenges posed by the pandemic, facilities do not seem ready to step up.
“Facilities throughout the state have made little or no efforts to assist residents” to vote by mail in “what may be the most important election in their lifetimes,” representatives of a dozen community advocacy groups wrote to Pennsylvania health officials late last month …