Can you still vote if you live in a long-term care fa­cil­ity?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FIFTY PLUS - Kath­leen Martin Le­gal Ease

The abil­ity to vote is a pre­cious right and priv­i­lege for all Amer­i­cans. A re­cent news story re­ported that a group of new Amer­i­cans, im­me­di­ately af­ter be­com­ing ci­ti­zens, reg­is­tered to vote. They un­der­stood the need to ex­er­cise this im­por­tant as­pect of be­ing a U.S. cit­i­zen.

But what if you or a loved one lives in a long term care fa­cil­ity? Have you given up your right to vote? El­der Law An­swers, in a re­cent news­let­ter, spoke to this sub­ject in “How to Vote While in a Nurs­ing Home.” Much of the ad­vice given does not just ap­ply to per­sons in a skilled care unit but even those in per­sonal care or those who have moved re­cently to in­de­pen­dent liv­ing.

The first step is to regis­ter since you likely have had a change of ad­dress which would af­fect where you would vote. You can regis­ter in per­son, by mail, or on­line. Since many per­sons in long term care fa­cil­i­ties have mo­bil­ity is­sues, reg­is­ter­ing on­line or by mail may be the best op­tion. The So­cial Worker in your fa­cil­ity may be help­ful or per­haps a fam­ily mem­ber can help if you do not have ac­cess to a com­puter. The State web­site is www.regis­ter.votespa.com; there you can regis­ter on­line or you can download the form and mail it in. The dead­line to regis­ter for the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 11 so do not de­lay. No photo ID is re­quired.

Each County has a Board of Elec­tions where there is in­for­ma­tion for those who are el­derly or have dis­abil­i­ties since Pennsylvania rec­og­nizes that there are many vot­ers who may have chal­lenges that af­fect their abil­ity to vote. As an ex­am­ple, the tele­phone num­ber of the Mont­gomery County Board of Elec­tions di­vi­sion re­lated to reg­is­tra­tion is 610278-3280. There are peo­ple stand­ing by to as­sist you. If enough res­i­dents in your fa­cil­ity are sim­i­larly sit­u­ated, there may be a way to as­sist a group of you.

Once you have reg­is­tered, you must cast a bal­lot in or­der to vote. For many that is sim­ply a mat­ter of get­ting to the des­ig­nated polling place. It could be that your fa­cil­ity will pro­vide as­sis­tance in get­ting you and oth­ers in the fa­cil­ity there. How­ever, if the polling place is not ac­ces­si­ble to you, ei­ther be­cause of your lack of abil­ity to leave the fa­cil­ity or be­cause the polling place is in­ac­ces­si­ble for other rea­sons, you are en­ti­tled to as­sis­tance with cast­ing your bal­lot, or to an al­ter­na­tive bal­lot. You can also cast an ab­sen­tee bal­lot. Note that the dead­line to re­quest ac­com­mo­da­tions is Nov. 1, 2016. In Mont­gomery County, the tele­phone num­ber to call to ob­tain as­sis­tance with an al­ter­na­tive bal­lot or an ab­sen­tee bal­lot is 610-278-3275.

The up­com­ing Pres­i­den­tial election is gen­er­at­ing a great deal of in­ter­est. Many peo­ple have strong opin­ions about each can­di­date and ex­press them fre­quently. How­ever, the only opin­ion that mat­ters is your vote. Con­sider con­tin­u­ing to vote; nurs­ing home res­i­dence does not need to be a bar­rier.

The le­gal ad­vice in this col­umn is gen­eral in na­ture, Con­sult your at­tor­ney for ad­vice to fit your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. Kath­leen Martin, Esquire is li­censed to prac­tice in the Com­mon­wealth of Pennsylvania and is cer­ti­fied as an El­der Law At­tor­ney by the Na­tional El­der Law Foun­da­tion as au­tho­rized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She is a prin­ci­pal of the law firm of O’Don­nell, Weiss & Mat­tei, P.C., 41 High Street, Pottstown, and 347 Bridge Street, Phoenixville,610-323-2800, www. owm­law.com. You can reach Mrs. Martin at kmartin@owm­law.com.

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