JeffVotes expands efforts with voter registration and mail-in ballots.
As the 2020 general election draws closer, many Pennsylvanians are deciding how to vote this year. While many U.S. citizens have voted in-person in past elections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises all voters to consider alternatives to limit risk of community transmission of COVID-19, including mail-in voting and absentee ballots.
Being hospitalized or working in the hospital can make it challenging to get to the polls, so it’s important to make a plan to vote. Whether you’re voting in-person or taking advantage of the expanded opportunities to vote by mail, a student group called JeffVotes hopes to help the Jefferson community make their voices heard.
JeffVotes is a nonpartisan student-run voting initiative established in 2018 at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Students from all health professions programs can volunteer and help Jefferson community members register to vote and access emergency absentee ballots each election. Our motto is that unexpected hospitalization for any reason should never be a barrier to exercising your right to vote.
This year, we have expanded our efforts to include voter registration and mail-in ballot forms. Our voter registration table is located on the 11th Street side of the Atrium Cafe at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Volunteers are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily until Oct. 27 to answer questions and assist Jefferson employees, students, patients and loved ones in checking registration, registering to vote and applying for mail-in ballots. Outside of those hours, voter resources are available 24/7 in both English and Spanish. So far, our volunteers have helped more than 100 people register or request mail-in ballots.
Many Jefferson employees also are participating in a national initiative called VotER. Be sure to look out for Jefferson hospital employees wearing VotER badges, which can link you directly to voter services online.
Our motto is that unexpected hospitalization for any reason should never be a barrier to exercising your right to vote.
This year, mail-in ballots are available to all Pennsylvania residents. You may fill out ballot request forms online if you have a Pennsylvania license or PennDot number; otherwise, you must send completed paper forms by mail to the board of elections. If you won’t be in the municipality during the election or will need a ballot due to illness or disability, then an absentee ballot is the option for you.
Here are some important Pennsylvania election dates this year:
- Oct. 19: Last day to register to vote
- Oct. 27: Last day to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot
- Nov. 3: Election Day and 8 p.m. deadline for receipt of ballot
We recommend using deadlines at least one week before these dates to ensure that your vote is counted.
A week before election day, we will begin our emergency absentee ballot initiative. These ballots are a special option for Jefferson patients who planned to vote in-person but cannot make it into the polls on Election Day due to unplanned hospitalization.
From Oct. 27 through the close of polls on Election Day, we will partner with hospital staff to deliver ballots to patients at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience. Over the past two years, we’ve collected nearly 200 emergency absentee ballots for hospitalized patients and hope this effort will grow this year.
Students from all health professions programs can volunteer and help Jefferson community members register to vote and access emergency absentee ballots each election.
Patients and volunteers alike have shared how JeffVotes has impacted them. For example, after a patient arrived at the hospital, one of the first things he did was reach out for a ballot. “He saw an ad on his meal tray and was overjoyed that he could vote from his bed,” recalls Adrienne Johnson, a JeffVotes volunteer and Sidney Kimmel Medical College student. “Seeing how happy he was made my day.”
Disability, surgery, pregnancy or illness may be a barrier to get to the polls, but with the help of JeffVotes, it doesn’t need to be an obstacle to exercise the right to vote. This initiative is one of the many ways that Jefferson puts patients first.
Adam Cohen-Nowak and Julia Dewey are Sidney Kimmel Medical College students and JeffVotes volunteers. Interested in volunteering or seeking voter resources for patients? Jefferson faculty, staff and students specializing in healthcare or medicine can email firstname.lastname@example.org.