Monday, October 19, 2020
The New York Times reported recently on a hot topic with the upcoming election: whether an individual with dementia can still vote. Having Dementia Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Vote "tells us that for some, voting is still possible. The key, "he ability to express a preference," citing to a new report from experts on this topic. Even though the person has the right, the exercise of that right may be challenging: "[v]oting can become challenging for many older citizens, who may struggle to reach polling places, stand in lines, use computerized voting machines or read ballots printed in small type."
Further, the article notes, many believe they cannot help the voter in casting the ballot. "A diagnosis of cognitive impairment does not bar someone from voting. Voters need pass no cognitive tests. They don’t have to be able to name the candidates or explain the issues. If they need help reading or physically marking the ballot, they can be assisted, either at the polls or with mail-in ballots. In some states, even people under court-appointed guardianship don’t lose their voting rights."
So you want to help. What do you do? "If you are considering helping someone with dementia to participate in an election, and they have registered to vote, in most cases there are only two real guidelines to keep in mind.
- "After reminding the person that Election Day is nearing, ask whether he or she would like to vote." If the answer is no, you are done.
- If the answer is yes, then "you may read the voter the ballot choices, if he or she cannot read them, but cannot provide additional information or interpretation, although discussions before voting begins are permitted. “Ask them their choices and see if they answer,” ... “If they do, they vote.”
Even in normal times, there are challenges for those who need help with voting, for examples residents of SNFs. In the time of COVID, the challenges are even greater. The article is really interesting and I encourage you to read it. The study findings can be accessed here.