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Rocking the vote from rocking chairs
Date:3/16/2011

PHILADELPHIA For seniors, voting can be difficult: standing with a walker or cane in the voting booth, struggling to read the tiny print on the ballot or trying to punch the tiny button to vote for the intended. Despite the desire to vote, the typical voting process leaves many seniors disenfranchised, particularly for residents of long term care facilities.

A Penn Medicine study of a process called mobile polling where election officials register voters onsite, then bring voting ballots to long term care residents and provide voter assistance as needed found that nursing home residents, staff and election officials all agreed that mobile polling is better than current voting methods. Not only did the mobile polling efforts guarantee residents their right to vote, but according to the nursing home staff, it also brought dignity to residents. The study appears in the current issue of the Election Law Journal.

"Elections are close. Voting matters, especially in long term care facilities where there are often hundreds of voters eligible to and interested in voting," said Jason Karlawish, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics. "Mobile polling effectively provides nursing home residents with assistance but without bias."

Study co-investigator Charlie Sabatino, Director of the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging explained that "Mobile polling is standard in other countries that have been studied, but has not been widely adopted in the United States, despite close elections where every vote counts as well as recent recommendations from the American Bar Association to improve voting practices in long-term care settings."

The study was conducted in the state of Vermont during the 2008 general election, with participation from the Secretary of State of Vermont, Deborah Markowitz, who oversees voting policies and procedures. Medicare-designated nursing homes with more than 40 resident
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Contact: Kim Menard
kim.menard@uphs.upenn.edu
215-662-6183
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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