The votes are in: Researchers find mobile polling helps nursing home residents during election season

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Mobile polling, in which election officials bring ballots to nursing home residents and assist with voting, is better than current voting methods for individuals in long-term care, according to a new study.

The typical voting process of visiting a polling place, standing in line to receive a ballot and reading small print or punching tiny buttons to vote can be disenfranchising for many in long-term care settings, researchers found. During the 2008 election, researchers from Penn Medicine, a division of the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed 24 nursing homes—nine that participated in mobile polling and 15 that voted in the traditional way. 

Workers using the traditional method reported feeling uncomfortable helping residents; they were especially concerned about helping them too much, according to the report. At facilities that participated in mobile voting, however, that pressure was lifted. Mobile polling also guaranteed residents their right to vote and brought residents dignity, according to staff reports.

Mobile polling is standard in other countries studied. It has not been widely adopted in the United States, despite close elections and calls to improve voting in long-term care facilities, according to study co-investigator Charlie Sabatino, director of the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging. The report appears in the latest edition of Election Law Journal.

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