The Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services this week is reminding providers that they must ensure nursing home residents are able to exercise their right to vote during the upcoming presidential election cycle. 

The agency issued the affirmation in a memo to state surveyors Monday, noting that the coronavirus public health emergency has resulted in limitations for visitors to enter the facilities to assist residents with voting.

The memo was issued on the same day that an Arizona judge issued a ruling allowing voters confined to nursing homes, hospitals or those living with disabilities to cast their votes through video during the presidential election. 

An August report by Market Watch detailed that the pandemic has created a more difficult voting process for nursing home residents, leaving their votes at risk this November.

CMS encouraged nursing home owners and administrators to collaborate with states and local officials to “ensure a resident’s right to vote is not impeded.”

“Nursing homes should have a plan to ensure residents can exercise their right to vote, whether in person, by mail, absentee, or other authorized process. If a state has specific programs to enable nursing home residents to vote, the facility should coordinate and engage with those programs, as appropriate,” the agency wrote. 

It added that those programs could include mobile polling in residential facilities performed by a bipartisan work team, providing assistance with voter registration, requesting absentee ballots or having a representative of a resident’s choosing help complete their ballot. 

CMS also noted that mandates for use of mail in nursing homes also applies to mail-in ballots. Those regulations include providing reasonable access to tools in order to send mail, and promptly giving and sending resident letters. 

Video voting

Meanwhile, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall H. Warner found that videoconferencing, or “virtual voting,” may be necessary for some because of the extreme circumstances caused by the national health emergency. 

“Federal law does not allow Arizona to impose on a disabled voter the choice between voting and protecting their health,” Warner wrote. He added that the ruling “does not mean the County Recorder is free to use video voting whenever he wants or for any voter who asks.”

Opponents had argued that state law doesn’t allow people to cast ballots by video.