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You Can Still Vote From Your Hospital Bed

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI
Volunteer Peggy Ghysel asks John Cotton information for his absentee ballot application at Rochester General Hospital.

People find themselves in all kinds of unexpected situations on or leading up to Election Day — including ending up in the hospital.

Nearly half of elderly non-voters say health problems kept them from voting in the past, according to Bloomberg. But being in the hospital shouldn’t keep you from voting. People that are hospitalized in many states can cast absentee ballots from their hospital beds, including in Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia and California.

In Rochester, N.Y., volunteers at Rochester General Hospital brought last minute absentee applications to patients.

“I kept asking, is anyone going to come around and let me vote? The doctor [said] I’m going to try to get somebody to come up so you can vote,” says John Cotton, who wasn’t expecting to still be in the hospital come election day.

Long-time volunteer Peggy Ghysel brought Cotton an application for an absentee ballot. She would then need to bring it over to the board of elections herself, go back to Cotton to hand deliver his ballot and, once again, return to the board of elections.

This story comes from WXXI.

“The process that we need to follow is actually pretty rigorous. People need to act on behalf of folks who want to vote at this late point to get a ballot as their agent,” says Doug Della Pietra, director of patient experience and volunteer services at Rochester General Hospital. 

Della Pietra recalls the last two general elections when patients requested help voting on Election Day. It was possible, he says, but difficult to secure absentee ballots day of. 

This year, they’ve been preparing since August for this kind of arrangement with volunteer agents. 

“This is just really important to patients. They think about it when they’re in the hospital,” Della Pietra added.  

Karen Shakerdge is a health reporter/producer for WXXI and Side Effects Public Media. From a young anthropology student to a documentary film producer to an oral historian and now radio reporter, Karen has been asking people questions about their lives in one way or another for almost 10 years.