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Harder Pushes CA Secretary of State to Ensure Nursing Home Residents’ Votes Are Counted this Election

Modesto, CA – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) has written a letter to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla requesting that his office take additional measures to ensure nursing home residents can vote without incident this November. Nursing homes in Rep. Harder’s district have been hit hard by the Coronavirus Pandemic, and with recent procedural changes to the voting process, lack of access to support networks, and additional needs for many residents, voting may pose a significant challenge, including unintended clerical errors that may get a ballot rejected.

Many residents of nursing homes rely on the Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail (RAVBM) program, which allows people with particular needs to fill out a ballot on a computer using accessible technology rather than a physical ballot. These residents often require additional assistance, and given this year’s all-mail election in California, Rep. Harder wants to ensure that the Secretary of State takes all possible steps to ensure these seniors can vote without incident.

The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here.

Dear Secretary Padilla,

I write today concerned that some of California’s nursing home residents, who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, may have additional difficulties casting their vote this November. I urge you to ensure our state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the tools they need – including updated guidance in light of the global pandemic- so that all can successfully vote in this upcoming election.

In my district, COVID-19 hit nursing homes early and hard.  Ninety-two of the first hundred COVID-19 related deaths in Stanislaus County were in nursing homes. Residents living in these facilities have been isolated for months, unable to visit with their loved ones and communities in the middle of this pandemic. Now—with limited access to their support network—my constituents are facing a vote-by-mail program that many are unfamiliar with.

The circumstances of this year’s election will have many voters mailing in their ballots for the first time in our nation’s history. Unintended errors on a ballot can get a ballot rejected. In this year’s primary alone, over 100,000 mail-in-ballots were disqualified due to mistakes as simple as forgetting a middle initial in their signature. That’s why there must be active educational outreach on the part of election officials to nursing home residents on signature matching, mailing and tracking their ballot, the existing deadlines, and verifying that their vote was counted. These voter education efforts must be made in both English and Spanish and available across California.

I also urge attention to be focused on residents that require Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail (RAVBM) ballots. In the case of RAVBM ballots, I’m worried that disabled residents may lack the support to clear the extra hurdles to vote. Unlike with the typical mail-in-ballot, RAVBM ballots must be requested from the County Elections Office, then they must be filled out on the voter’s own computer using assistive technology, printed, and mailed back. This requires access to digital resources that some residents may not have.

This is not a partisan issue. The population hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic should not also be disenfranchised by it. As a public servant, I owe it to my constituents that their voices will be heard in this election. Thank you for your leadership on this issue and I look forward to your response. 

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