Can people living in long-term care facilities vote? What about people with Alzheimer’s or dementia?
With Indiana’s Election Day approaching Nov. 8 and early voting underway, several listeners are curious about voter rights.
Kristin Dulaney is the special projects manager with Indiana Disability Rights. She said all voters in nursing homes and assisted living communities should have the same rights as those who live elsewhere.
“Folks who live in a long-term care facility, whether that's a nursing home, assisted living, medical or even a locked unit still have the right to vote,” she said.
Dulaney pointed to 2020 guidance from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which requires facilities to support their resident’s voting rights.
“Facilities are required to work with residents to support their right to vote,” she said.
She added that this may include poll transport or on-site voting for residents, or resources for absentee voting like postage, stationary or phone and computer access.
Dulaney said vote-by-mail is a convenient resource for those living in these facilities.
“The person is able to have their ballot at the place of their choosing and go through it at their own pace,” she said.
For those voters who are unable to mark ballots on their own, they are now permitted to receive assistance from a person of their choice. However, this person may not be a union leader or employer, and can only help the individual read and understand the ballot, not to make decisions.
For those voters with Alzheimer’s or dementia, Dulaney said they are still granted the same rights as other Hoosier voters. This is due to several provisions that protect those living with disabilities.
“First is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, which provides the right to an accessible polling place. And the second is the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which provides the right to vote privately and independently,” she said. “And again, even if the person has a guardian, they still have the right to vote according to Indiana code.”
Dulaney said these voters also have opportunities to make a plan before heading to the polls.
“Voters with Alzheimer's and dementia may bring notes with them into the polls,” she said. “I know that you do research ahead of time to think about who you want to cast your ballot, so folks are absolutely able to bring that with them so they can remember how they wanted to cast their ballot. And then they're also able to have assistance in the booth.”
She added Indiana Disability Rights and its members want to ensure every Hoosier’s right to vote. Those experiencing accessibility issues on Election Day can contact election protection hotlines, including:
Indiana Secretary of State’s Office
They’ll have staff on hand for phone calls from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern
Indiana Disability Rights
Voice (317) 722-5555
Toll Free (800) 622-4845
Text Telephone (TTY) (800) 838-1131
Indiana Disability Rights is closed on Election Day
Indiana Election Division
Direct (317) 232-3939
Toll Free (800) 622-4941
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story included Indiana Disability Rights' contact information for Hoosiers needing assistance. For the purpose of clarity, we've noted that IDR is closed on Election Day.