Federal and state laws ensure long-term care residents certain rights, including the right to vote. Ohio and many other states also grant long-term care residents the right to vote in their facility, receive assistance to vote and request certain accommodations. A notable exception is individuals who have been determined by a court to be incompetent to vote; a general finding of incompetency and guardianship does not take away the right to vote.
Ohio requires every polling location to have a voting machine that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. These machines include features like audio ballots, braille touch pads, large print, text-zoom features, and height and tilt adjustments on the screens. Nursing home residents who are able to travel to a polling place should tell poll workers if they require an accessible voting system.
If nursing home residents are unable to leave their homes to vote, the county board of elections can deliver a ballot to them. Two election officials of different political parties will deliver the ballot, assist with filling it out, if needed, and return the ballot to the board of elections. Contact your local board of elections for more information about this option.
Ohioans who need help to vote because of a disability may receive assistance from someone of their choice, such as family members and friends, or election precinct officials (again, one each from two political parties). However, residents cannot receive help to vote from a candidate whose name appears on the ballot and certain other people prohibited by law.
Finally, every Ohio voter must have identification to vote. Acceptable forms of ID include an Ohio driver’s license, military ID or a current utility bill with the voter’s name and address on it. The Secretary of State’s website, www.MyOhioVote.com, lists additional forms of identification that can be used, as well as general information about the upcoming statewide election.
The registration deadline to vote in the Nov. 6 general election is Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.
The ability to express yourself and have a say in your government is a right given to all Americans. Ohioans who live in nursing homes, and their family members and friends, can learn more about this and other rights they have as residents by connecting with the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at www.ombudsman.ohio.gov or 1-800-282-1206.
By Erin Pettegrew, Acting State Long-Term Care Ombudsman