How to Vote If You're Hospitalized or Disabled

If you are physically unable to reach the polls or face extra challenges due to a disability there are still ways to make sure your vote is counted.

In fact you have the federally protected right to do and there are a number of services set up to aid anyone who needs help with the process according to journalist Tara Haelle for Forbes:

The right of people with disabilities including mental illness to vote is guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Each subsequent law strengthened and expanded these rights to ensure everyone eligible to vote can do so without barriers that violate their civil rights.

The mental illness note is very important because many people don’t realize that they’re entitled to help with their ballot even if they’re struggling with less visible health issues from anxiety attacks to psychosis. This protection also covers “intellectual developmental or mental disability.”

There is a guide recommended by the the National Disability Rights Network and the Autistics Self-Advocacy Network that is published by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law for anyone who wants to know more about the specific rights individuals with mental health issues have.

Who Can Help?

There are only two rules about who can help you cast your ballot: they can’t be your employer or union leader. But you can ask a friend coworker or even a stranger. Poll workers should be trained to assist you and if one discourages you or tries to stop you from voting they are breaking federal law. You can report interference to the national voter hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

At the Hospital

If you’re in the hospital you still have the right to vote as long as you are registered. Some hospitals have staff trained to assist but if they don’t you can contact your local election commission to help. A staff member can also make the call on your behalf—and if they refuse or do anything else to impede you they’re also breaking the law. The website PatientVoting.com has more specifics for your particular state and there are also options for emergency absentee voting. It might be difficult to advocate for your voting rights in a health emergency but if you have the fortitude nobody has the right to stop you.