Erin Pettegrew, acting state long-term care ombudsman, is reminding Ohioans in nursing homes that they have the right to vote, and voting can be brought to them.

“We do it every election,” said Jody O’Brien, one of Hancock County’s election directors.

She said the local election board is in contact with nursing homes, and can send absentee ballots or come out to assist older voters. If the person wants to vote in the nursing home where they live, then one Republican and one Democrat will come and assist them. O’Brien said this happens prior to Election Day.

In a blog post for the Ohio Department of Aging, Pettegrew wrote that “Ohio and many other states … grant long-term care residents the right to vote in their facility, receive assistance to vote and request certain accommodations. A notable exception is that individuals that have been determined by a court to be incompetent are not allowed to vote.”

Every polling location must have a voting machine that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Pettegrew encouraged nursing home residents who are able to travel to a polling place to tell poll workers if they require an accessible voting system.

O’Brien said one machine in every precinct will have a numeric keypad and headphones, allowing someone who may have vision issues to vote. All polling places are also handicap accessible.

“Ohioans who need help to vote because of a disability may receive assistance from someone of their choice, such as family members and friends, or election precinct officials (again, one each from two political parties),” Pettegrew wrote. “However, residents cannot receive help to vote from a candidate whose name appears on the ballot and certain other people prohibited by law.”

O’Brien said curbside voting also occurrs on Election Day. Say a voter with a disability gets driven to their polling place. When they get there, two workers — again, one Republican and one Democrat — will bring out a paper ballot and allow the individual to cast their vote from the car.

Last year, a resident who was on his way home from the hospital chose this option, as he did not want to miss out on voting, O’Brien said.

“The ability to express yourself and have a say in your government is a right given to all Americans,” Pettegrew wrote. “Ohioans who live in nursing homes, and their family members and friends, can learn more about this and other rights they have as residents by connecting with the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at www.ombudsman.ohio.gov or 800-282-1206.”

The Hancock County Board of Elections can be reached at 419-422-3245.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election is Tuesday.

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