Although voting is the hallmark of a democracy, it isn't easy if you are in a long-term care facility. Nursing home and other long-term care facility residents face several challenges to voting, from registering to vote to actually casting a ballot.
When you move into a nursing home or assisted living facility, your address changes, which means you probably need to register to vote based on the new address. You can register in person, by mail, or, in some states, online. To register in person, visit your local elections office or your local department of motor vehicles. To find out where to register in your state, go here: http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/contact_your_state.aspx.
Alternatively, there is a national voter registration application that you can use to register by mail. The form includes state-specific instructions. Finally, more than 30 states have online registration.
Once you are registered, you still need to physically cast your ballot. This can be difficult if you have trouble leaving your facility. There are several methods that nursing home residents may be able to use to vote. All states allow absentee voting, but the requirements are different in each state. Some states require an excuse –- such as a physical disability — to vote absentee.
In Pennsylvania, absentee ballots must be received by the County election office by no later than the Tuesday before the election (thus, usually one week before the election), so you need to obtain an absentee ballot well in advance of the election. (In case of certain emergencies, a special absentee ballot can be submitted if received by the Friday before the election.)
If it is difficult for you to get to the polls on Election Day, 37 states offer early voting; however, Pennsylvania does not yet permit this. Thus, if you cannot get to a polling place on election day, be sure to arrange for an absentee ballot, and submit it in time for it to be received by the required deadline!