In an October 5, 2020 QSO Memo, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reminded long-term care providers that they are responsible for ensuring their residents are able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, despite the on-going COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE).
Citing several regulations, CMS noted that facilities are expected to have a plan in place that ensures that residents can exercise their right to vote, no matter what the process is, such as in-person, via absentee ballot, via postal mail or other authorized process. Some states have programs in place that enable external assistance to come into the facility, but regardless of whether this is available or not, providers are required to provide support to residents to help them vote. This includes:
- Transporting residents to polling locations or ballot drop-boxes while maintaining social distancing and safety
- Assisting with absentee or mail-in voting processes
- Ensuring residents who are otherwise unable to cast ballots in-person retain their right to vote and send in their ballots via State/locality authorized mechanisms
CMS states that during the PHE, the Agency advises against the use of nursing homes as polling locations that are open to the general public.
Additionally, the QSO Memo directs residents/representatives who believe their rights have been violated to file a complaint with their State Survey Agency and to report to the Department of Justice any allegations of voter coercion or intimidation.