Democracy in Action

JeffVotes students ensure hospitalized patients can participate in the Pennsylvania primary.

Primary season for the 2020 presidential election is heating up with Super Tuesday on March 3 and the Pennsylvania primary on April 28.

A reform package passed in fall 2019 gives Pennsylvanians more time to register to vote and greater flexibility in acquiring absentee ballots. However, it didn’t change one major obstacle. If voters find themselves in the hospital past the regular absentee ballot application deadline on April 21 with no way to get to the polls, they can’t cast a ballot in the primary without assistance.

Started by Sidney Kimmel Medical College students during the 2018 election, JeffVotes ensures hospitalized patients still can vote. The initiative also educates medical and health profession students on the importance of addressing the full spectrum of problems faced by our patients.

Alisha Maity holding up a voting button
JeffVotes educates students on addressing the full spectrum of problems faced by patients, says Alisha Maity.

JeffVotes team members work with physicians, nurses, notaries and City Hall staff to help get these votes counted. In last year’s election, 44 volunteers—including 30 Jefferson students—helped submit 85 ballots on behalf of patients. (Read more about our work from the 2019 election.)

Here’s what some volunteers said about their experiences:

  • “One patient cried because she was so happy to be able to vote after ending up in the ED on Election Day.”
  • “A former judge of elections was elated that he could vote; otherwise, it would have been his first time not voting in many years. He said, ‘I’m a patriot.’”
  • “I helped a woman who hadn’t missed an election in 68 years help fill out an absentee ballot.”
Adam Cohen-Nowak holds up a voting button
JeffVotes volunteers, including Adam Cohen-Nowak, helped submit 85 ballots on behalf of patients in 2019.

From April 22-28, any hospitalized patient at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Jefferson Hospital for Neurosciences requiring inpatient services will be eligible to complete a ballot for the Pennsylvania primary right in his or her hospital room.

Health profession and medical students interested in joining the volunteer effort this election can sign up here. Orientation will be April 15 at 12 p.m. in Hamilton 208/209. Email with any questions.

Alisha Maity and Adam Cohen-Nowak are Sidney Kimmel Medical College students and JeffVotes volunteers.

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Health, Life at Jefferson