Voter Access Program Helps Aging Adults Get to the Polls

How will you get to the polls in the next election? For older people, that can often be a challenge. A major ride-share company is now working with several organizations to get older people to the polls without charge.

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Voter Access Program Helps Aging Adults Get to the Polls
3 Min Read May 20th, 2022

News stories about elections have been abundant in the past few years; however, there has been little attention addressing the concerns of older or disabled adults' ability to get to the election polls on election day.

"Older adults want to participate in our democracy, but many do not have transportation to get to polling stations," said Ramsey Alwin, NCOA President, and Chief Executive Officer.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is working with members of the aging services network to distribute ride codes from Lyft that older adults can use to get to the polls. Lyft is a ride-sharing company based in San Francisco.

Free Rides to Vote for Seniors

As part of the company's 2022 LyftUp Voting Access Program, Lyft is providing ride codes with a value of up to $50 for travel to polling stations. NCOA will distribute the codes to the aging services network, which can help their older clients use them.

During the pandemic, NCOA and Lyft partnered to provide access to reliable transportation for older adults to get their COVID vaccines and booster shots. Over 1,750 older adults and caregivers used the $50 codes to redeem more than 3,500 rides.

"Lyft's partnership is going to make it easier to ensure older adults have access to the transportation they need to make their voices heard at the polls," Alwin said.

Since some older adults do not have a smartphone, the company's "Rides for Others" feature allows a friend or family member to order a trip for another person. 

Seniors - Big Voting Block

Seniors have consistently been voting in greater numbers than any other age group. In the 2020 election, 74% of adults aged 65 and older voted, compared to 71% in the 2016 presidential election. 

There is a growing number of older adults in the United States, and aging and health problems can often make voting harder. Federal laws are in place to protect the voting rights of older Americans and others with disabilities. These laws require accessible polling places, so they can easily exercise their constitutional right to vote as American citizens.  

Transportation and mobility problems often make it harder for some people to get to the polls. Not every area of the country has abundant public transportation available. The NCOA/Lyft program will help alleviate the transportation problem.

"Too many older adults do not have transportation to get to polling stations and fully participate in our democracy. This is especially true of low-income seniors, communities of color, and those living in rural areas. Lyft's voting access program will help ensure that these older adults can make their voices heard where it matters—in the voting booth," Alwin explained.

Absentee Voting in Long-Term Care Facilities

Many voters, including seniors, like going to the polls on election day; however, it is more than a transportation problem that makes it hard to vote for some.

Residents of long-term health care facilities may request and vote with an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot is the most common way for residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities (like assisted living) to vote is through absentee voting. 

In 23 states, supervised absentee voting is allowed. Supervised absentee voting is conducted inside the facility by a bipartisan team of election workers trained by local officials. Some states determine where mobile polling will be offered based on the number of people who have requested absentee ballots, and others on the number of registered voters in residence.

Does Dementia Prevent Person from Voting?

The American Bar Association says that a medical diagnosis, like Alzheimer's Disease, does not disqualify someone from voting. They are entitled to vote and get assistance if needed. 

The American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging and the Penn Memory Center have published a guide on helping people with cognitive impairment vote.

An individual's voting capacity is determined by state law. Some states have laws prohibiting individuals assigned a legal guardian from voting. However, many states do not impose voting capacity standards. 

Federal law permits voters with disabilities to vote and to receive assistance with voting if they request help. This assistance can be provided by an election official or poll worker, friend, family member, caregiver, assisted living facility worker, or almost anyone else.

As America gets older, the issues surrounding voting will continue to be debated. 

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Editor's Note

Getting older doesn't prevent you from participating in life, including voting. Even those who live in long-term health care facilities or receive in-home care can still live active, fulfilling lives. 

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