On October 5th, 2020, CMS sent out a memo regarding compliance related to nursing home residents and their right to vote. CMS made clear that they are affirming the continued right of nursing home residents to exercise their right to vote, while acknowledging the challenges that have arisen with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although visitations are limited and there are new restrictions, nursing homes must have a plan to ensure residents can exercise their right to vote. This is required whether or not external assistance is available to come into the facility. Please read the full memo to understand what this means for you, your facility, and your residents.
Please also read the following letter issued by CMS, to residents:
Dear Nursing Home Resident or Family Member of Resident:
My Federal agency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), oversees Medicare andMedicaid certified nursing homes, which includes your facility. I wanted to make you aware that becauseof longstanding Federal requirements for nursing facility cannot limit or interfere with your right to voteunder any circumstances. The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has caused limitations of visitors from entering this facility to assist residents. However, the pandemic is NOT a reason your facility can limit your right to vote.
Your nursing home should give you any assistance and resources necessary to help you vote, including facilitating mobile polling, absentee voting, transportation to polling centers, or assistance by a representative of your choice to complete your ballot. You have the right to have prompt delivery of mail and posting of outgoing mail (including absentee ballots) within 24 hours, except when there is no regularly scheduled postal delivery and pick-up service.
You can find information on voting rights for Older Americans, including those in nursing homes at ACL.gov and searching for “Voting Resources for Older Americans and People with Disabilities.” For more information, please see this useful resource: https://acl.gov/news-and events/announcements/votingresources-older-americans-and-people-disabilities
To find your state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Office, which can assist you with any questions orconcerns about your voting rights, visit https://theconsumervoice.org/get_help. If you believe your right to vote has been violated (through interference, coercion, discrimination or facility reprisal) during your stay at a nursing home, we strongly urge you to file a complaint with yourState Survey Agency. You can find your State Survey Agency information by calling 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227); TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. Contact information is available at https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-andCertification/SurveyCertificationGenInfo/Downloads/Complaintcontacts.pdf
CMS’ mission is to safeguard the health, safety, and quality of life for America’s nursing home residents. This includes protecting the integrity of your Constitutional rights, including the right to vote.