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Older Americans suffer serious access limitations to exercise their right to vote
Date:2/1/2008

heir feasibility and refine them.

Neglecting the Voting Rights of Seniors

Election officials, said Karawish, have paid limited attention to two key issues: assuring that residents of long-term care facilities have access to the ballot, and preventing unscrupulous persons from exploiting their vote.

Karlawish reported on the results of studies of voting in long term care populations conducted by him and his colleagues. Twenty-nine states do not have voting guidelines to accommodate residents of long-term care facilities. According the Karlawish, the convergence of four trends underscores the need to address this issue:

  1. The 2000 US presidential election clearly demonstrated how very important elections can be won by remarkably small numbers of votes. These razor-thing margins of victory continue to foment concern about the accuracy and legitimacy of every vote cast, said Karlawish.

  2. Older Americans vote in larger numbers than any other age group.

  3. The older American population is growing at an unprecendented rate. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2030, the population over 65 will more than double from 35 to 71.5 million.

  4. An increasingly larger number of Americans with cognitive impairments ranging from mild to severe live in long-term care settings such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes. our surveys of Philadelphia and Virginia show that in states without guidelines for voting in long-term care, access to the polls is largely determined by the practices and attitudes of the long-term care staff, typically social workers or activities directors and those practices are inadequate and they are unacceptable.

Despite the current situation, Karlawish told the Special Senate Committee, You have the precedent of Congressional efforts to facilitate voting by people with disabilities and to promote greater uniformity in state electoral practices. You al
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Contact: Olivia Fermano
Olivia.Fermano@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5653
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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