CHICAGO, IL – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a memo affirming the continued right that nursing home residents are allowed to exercise their right to vote. The memo recognizes limitations visitors have to enter facilities to assist residents in voting; however, nursing homes must still ensure residents are able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.
Residents’ Rights include:
- 483.10(b) Exercise of Rights: The resident has the right to exercise his or her rights as a resident of the facility and as a citizen or resident of the United States
- 483.10(b)(1): The facility must ensure that the resident can exercise his or her rights without interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal from the facility
- 483.10(b)(2): The resident has the right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights and to be supported by the facility in the exercise of his or her rights as required under this subpart
A resident has the right to vote and must not be impeded in any way by the nursing home facility and its staff. Nursing homes should have a plan in place to ensure residents are able to exercise their right to vote, whether in-person, by mail, absentee, or other authorized process. Some states may have specific programs to enable nursing home residents to vote in which the facility should coordinate and engage with those programs. This may include:
- Mobile Polling in residential facilities performed by a bipartisan team of workers; and/or
- Assistance in registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, or completing a ballot from an agent of the Resident’s choosing, including family representative, LTC Ombudsmen or nursing home staff
If a resident is unable to cast their ballot in person, nursing homes must ensure residents have the right to receive and send their ballots via the U.S. Postal Service, or other authorized mechanism allowed by the State or locality.
CMS regulations specific to use of mail, which also apply to voting, for voting, include:
- 483.10(g)(7): The facility must protect and facilitate that resident’s right to communicate with individuals and entities within and external to the facility, including reasonable access to: (i) A telephone, including TTY and TDD services; (ii) The internet, to the extent available to the facility; and (iii) Stationery, postage, writing implements and the ability to send mail
- 483.10(h)(2) The facility must respect the residents right to personal privacy, including the right to privacy in his or her oral (that is, spoken), written, and electronic communications, including the right to send and promptly receive unopened mail and other letters, packages and other materials delivered to the facility for the resident, including those delivered through a means other than a postal service
- Promptly meaning the delivery of mail or other materials to the resident within 24 hours of delivery by the postal service, including a post office box, and delivery of outgoing mail to the postal service within 24 hours, except when there is no regularly scheduled postal delivery and pick-up service.
Additional information is available from the HHS Administration for Community Living related to voting rights and resources, as well as contact information for Long Term Care Ombudsmen can be found here.