Preserving Voting Rights in Long-Term Care Institutions: Facilitating Resident Voting While Maintaining Election Integrity
47 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2008
Date Written: 2007
An individual's status as a resident of a long-term care facility has the potential to significantly limit his or her ability to vote. While the high rates of dementia among residents of long-term care facilities may lead some to conclude that such limitations are for the best, this article argues that individuals' access to the ballot and to assistance with ballot completion should not be limited by their institutional status. Specifically, it argues that long-term care facilities should be neither required nor permitted to play a "gate-keeping" role in the electoral process by screening residents for mental capacity to vote before permitting or facilitating access to the ballot. Nor, it argues, should electoral officials single out long-term care residents for such capacity testing. Rather, the article concludes that both states and long-term care facilities should consider themselves to have an affirmative duty to facilitate long-term care residents' participation in the electoral process. If policymakers are sufficiently concerned that excessively demented long-term care residents are voting, a phenomenon of which there is little evidence, they should create fair processes for disenfranchising voters that apply equally across residential settings.
Keywords: Voting, elections, dementia, nursing homes, assisted living, civil rights
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