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Hospitalized around Election Day? Here’s how you can still vote

Hospitalized around Election Day? Here's how you can still vote

Subsequent Tuesday is Election Day. Voter turnout is predicted to be excessive, however all of the “get out the vote messaging” on the earth – to not point out private plans to get to the polls – matter little or no if somebody is unexpectedly hospitalized.

That distinctive problem prompted physicians, medical college students, regulation college students, notary publics and others inside the College of Pennsylvania Well being System to broaden their objective of serving to sufferers vote by way of absentee poll. In that mission, they are not alone amongst Philadelphia hospitals.

The Penn Drugs push began in 2016 at Penn Presbyterian Medical Middle. Now it’s increasing to the Hospital of the College of Pennsylvania, which explains why the “Presby Votes” program has been renamed the “Penn Votes Project” prematurely of November 6.

Dr. Judd Flesch, an assistant professor of medical drugs and residency program director for inner drugs who helms the trouble, stated it began when a medical scholar requested one easy query of a supervising physician: What do these individuals do to vote?

Understanding there was high-interest within the presidential election, the physician introduced that query to Flesch who, after a workforce examined the legalities, helped type a small group of medical college students, residents and a notary to assist almost 20 Presbyterian sufferers from Philadelphia vote by way of absentee poll.

“It was a bit of the rush at the end,” he stated of a course of that drew an unsuccessful authorized response from an lawyer representing the Philadelphia Republican Metropolis Committee. “That first time was a bit haphazard. We decided to do it in a more organized fashion in the future. 

“We’ve expanded a little each time, with a big expansion this time since we’re doing it at HUP and Presbyterian,” Flesch stated.

All informed, an estimated 65 sufferers have been capable of vote within the earlier three elections because of this system.


The method of voting whereas hospitalized can be each easy and sophisticated.

As to the previous, if a affected person expresses a want to vote, a Penn Votes Undertaking volunteer will get them an software for an absentee poll. As soon as crammed out, a physician evaluations it to make sure they meet the standards for the requisite verification that they’re too sick to vote in individual.

The appliance is then notarized and brought to the county Board of Elections on the primary flooring of Philadelphia Metropolis Corridor. The volunteer returns with an absentee poll and provides it to the affected person. When crammed out, the poll is collected by Penn Votes and returned to the election workplace by a member of the the “law team.”

Penn Votes ProjectPenn Votes ProjectFrancis Otto/Penn Drugs

Penn Votes Challenge volunteers put on these pins as a type of outreach.

That each one needs to be accomplished every week earlier than Election Day. There are contingencies for would-be voters hospitalized after that deadline, although.

Emergency absentee ballots can be used between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. on the Friday simply earlier than the election. After that, volunteers have to get hold of last-minute emergency absentee ballots, which require an election decide’s evaluation.

Regulation college students with Penn Votes function the affected person’s “designated agent,” or go-between, for sufferers from Philadelphia. They get the ballots to election officers and work at hearings ought to the timing necessitate a judicial assessment.

Helming it from that angle is a Penn regulation scholar named Neil Deininger, who has been with the undertaking since final spring. He stated working to make a troublesome course of simpler made sense for him and different members of the pro-bono Democracy Regulation Challenge. He estimated that 15 regulation college students have volunteered to assist.

“You don’t really consider or think about it, but once you’re confronted with it, you realize it’s a serious problem,” he stated of voters probably lacking an opportunity to forged a vote as a result of they’re hospitalized. “This was the way in which we could help, handling the City Hall and courts aspect of it. 

“It was a venture with nice attraction since you might tangibly assist voters,” Deininger added, “and be in courtroom because the brokers of the sufferers.”

When Penn Votes held the primary of two coaching periods on Wednesday night time, 33 individuals attended. One other session will comply with on Monday night time. Organizers anticipate some 50 medical scholar volunteers, 10 nursing college students, around 20 physicians, and a notary at every hospital concerned this time around.

Erin Hollander, a second-year medical scholar who acquired concerned earlier than Might’s main election, led Wednesday’s session, which walked medical, nursing and regulation college students by means of all the course of. 

It marked the primary joint coaching session for separate entities (and the first-ever for nursing college students) who have been well-versed of their particular person duties however knew little about what the others have been doing, she stated.

Hollander received concerned as a result of she was raised to know the significance of volunteering and voting as a tenet of democracy.

“When I tell people about it, the reactions are usually ‘I never thought about that’ to ‘I can’t believe something like this didn’t exist before.’” – Erin Hollander

“We wanted to be able to give an overview of how the whole operation works,” she stated of the volunteers who take purposes, subject telephone calls and extra. “It’s very difficult to give an estimate (of how many people will be able to vote because of this) because it’s never been done before and no other hospital has this kind of system in place.

“My private objective is for 100 sufferers to get ballots, however I do not know if that is real looking. Once I inform individuals about it, the reactions are often ‘I by no means considered that’ to ‘I can’t consider one thing like this did not exist earlier than.’ I am glad information is getting out about it so we can assist sufferers already dealing with a very troublesome time proceed with their lives as regular.”

Outreach is not carried out. Penn Votes is still in search of methods to get phrase out on the hospitals “without burdening care providers,” Flesch stated.

Approaches to that finish embrace advertisements on hospital televisions, textual content messages, flyers on bulletin boards, a Google Voice quantity to name or textual content so a volunteer can go to their room, and educating care groups in order that they can point out it to sufferers and their households.

“There’s a discussion about whether flyers can be put on dietary trays, but that hasn’t been approved,” he stated. “We make it very clear that anyone who needs to train their proper to vote completely can.”

The expansion in time for the midterm elections means the Penn Votes Project can help voters from the suburbs for the first time, as well.

“The biggest limitation before was that we didn’t have the manpower to drive out to Doylestown, Norristown, West Chester or Media,” Flesch stated. “This year, we’ll do the first half (of the process) and then a family or friends can be the designated agent (who take the ballots from patients to election officials in the suburbs).”


Although their burgeoning program is by far probably the most in depth regionally, Penn isn’t alone in serving to hospital sufferers train their proper to vote.

Metropolis Commissioner Al Schmidt stated that supervisors from the elections workplace met with representatives from Penn, Temple College and Thomas Jefferson College hospitals to ensure everyone was on the identical web page.

At Temple, the Workplace of Affected person Expertise has undertaken an identical mission because the one at Presby and HUP. Supervisor Leah Kellar stated Temple’s push began with the November 2016 election and has picked again up with this general-election cycle.

“We use our interactive TV with an ad up on those in every patient’s room, in English and Spanish, telling them they can call our office if they’d like to get an absentee ballot or have questions about voting,” she stated. “We don’t just give them the ballots. Someone will sit with them at their hospital bed and go through the process with them.”

With a number of notaries on employees, and staffers volunteering to function “designated agents,” Temple additionally handles the back-and-forth to Metropolis Corridor to make sure sufferers can get their votes in. (There, it’s not law-school college students however anyone the sufferers need to designate, and the providing extends past the town borders to all the state.)

“It’s still too early to tell how many patients will do this, but we’re hoping to get a few,” Kellar stated, noting that 5 sufferers or so have been about to vote in 2016 by way of these means. “We’re big advocates of patients’ rights here, so we wanted to make sure we have a way to help them through this.”

Jonathan Hodges, interim public affairs officer for the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Middle in College Metropolis, stated employees and social staff assist hospitalized veterans fill out absentee ballots and ensure it’s carried out in a time-sensitive method. (That course of is a little more troublesome, nevertheless, for sufferers from different states, he stated.)

“It has been superb this yr. Even in 2016, we didn’t get as many as we’re getting now.” – Robin Parry, Magee Rehabilitation concierge

Magee Rehabilitation in Middle Metropolis doesn’t have the identical type of last-minute emergency instances as Penn, because it’s a long-term restoration facility, so that provides sufferers a bit of extra time to get their voting wants addressed.

Robin Parry, concierge at Magee, stated they begin selling help a few month earlier than the registration deadline. After that, she seems into offering absentee ballots for long-term residents once they understand they gained’t be residence to vote, and announce it to relations.

Parry prints out purposes, helps sufferers fill them out (in the event that they’re unable to take action themselves) and, as a notary, can deal with these necessities as properly. Up to now this yr, she stated she’s helped 10 sufferers full the method, however many others are in such crucial form that their minds aren’t on politics.

“When it comes down to the wire, I will deliver them to City Hall if they’re from Philly. Sometimes, I’ve had to drive patients to their districts to get (the ballots) in,” he stated. “It’s been amazing this year: even in 2016, we didn’t get as many as we’re getting now.”

Over at Moss Rehab and Albert Einstein Medical Middle, sufferers who search them might be supplied with absentee ballots and an inventory of touring notaries to assist them forged a poll, spokesman Kerry O’Connor shared.

Election-related providers like these isn’t one thing Hahnemann College Hospital has ever provided sufferers, however “it is a great idea and is going to be presented to our leadership team for future consideration,” stated Phil Ellingsworth Jr., the hospital’s director of communications.

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