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Voting Rights for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities

Individuals receiving long-term services and supports retain their voting rights, no matter where they live or what type of care they receive.

However, residents of long-term care facilities have a harder time voting due to mobility, health, and other issues that inhibit their ability to vote. 

Fortunately, there are many resources available for residents of long-term care facilities to help them register to vote, obtain mail-in ballots, and learn what to expect on the ballot.

Federal regulations guarantee residents’ rights, including their rights as citizens, which includes the right to vote:

- §483.10(b) Exercise of Rights.  The resident has the right to exercise his or her rights as a resident of the facility and as a citizen or ​resident of the United States.
               - §483.10(b)(1) The facility must ensure that the resident can exercise his or her rights without interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal from the facility.
               - ​§483.10(b)(2) The resident has the right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights and to be supported by the facility in the exercise of his or her rights as required under this subpart.

Long-Term Care Facilities Must Work with Their Residents to Ensure They Are Able to Vote   

Long-term care facilities must "have a plan to ensure residents can exercise their right to vote, whether in-person, by mail, absentee or other authorized process," according to 2020 guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services "affirming the continued right of nursing home residents to exercise their right to vote."

Facilities can support residents' right to vote by:

  • Coordinating with their states to take advantage of existing programs to help residents to vote. This includes, mobile polling, and assistance in registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, or completing a ballot from an agent of the Resident's choosing, including family representative, LTC Ombudsman or nursing home staff. 
  • Transporting individuals to polling places.
  • Providing access to stationery, postage, writing implements, and the ability to send mail. 
  • Helping residents promptly send and receive mail. 

A long-term care facility must not interfere with a resident exercising his or her right vote, nor may a facility coerce a resident during the voting process. 

Government guidance on voting applies to residents of long-term care facilities, and requires facilities to make accommodations to support residents in voting. Consumer Voice calls on all long-term facilities to immediately adopt practices that ensure all residents are able to vote and recommends

  • Requiring facilities to help any resident to vote who expresses a desire to vote, and ensure staff does not make their own determinations about who is eligible to vote.
  • Requiring facilities to help resident’s register to vote, obtain ballots, and assist residents with filling out ballots and returning them.   Facilities should provide stamps and envelopes to residents to return ballots.
  • Permitting residents to designate a person to help them to vote, and facilitating meetings with the designated person in the facility and in a manner that follows infection control guidelines.

Residents' Voices

"We didn't check our will, our dignity, our rights at the door when we checked into these nursing homes, and people keep forgetting that." - Maurice, a nursing home resident


Archive - Consumer Voice Resources

Archive - Consumer Voice Resources

Residents' Right to Vote and Ombudsman Program Advocacy (2018)

Tips for Encouraging Residents' Right to Vote (for Facilities) (2012)

Voter ID Requirements by State

This 2016 resource shows the current voter identification requirements for individuals by state. It includes the requirements to be met when voting in person as well as what is required when voting via absentee ballot.  Producing a valid identification can be challenging for many residents.  They may not have a current, valid driver’s license or state identification card, and important paperwork, such as a birth certificate, might not be easily accessible. Click on the resource, and call your state’s Board of Elections.

Fact Sheets for Consumers – Print these fact sheets and distribute to nursing home residents, home care consumers, family members, and any other individuals interested in this important information.

Promising Practices for Accessible Voting - A review of successful practices during previous elections, plus tips for practices to incorporate this year.  This fact sheet is geared towards advocates, facilities, volunteers, and ombudsmen.

2016 Residents' Rights Month: My Vote Matters - The 2016 theme of Residents' Rights Month focused on residents' right to vote and be engaged in the political process.  Consumer engagement, including the right to vote, is a cornerstone in our society.  Consumers receiving long-term services and supports retain their voting rights no matter where they live or what type of care they receive.  2016 Residents' Rights Month sought to support a consumer's right to vote and participate in the political process.

Common Issues Faced When Residents Vote (2012)

Cognitive Impairment & Voting (2012)


Archive - NORC Resources

Archive - NORC Resources

Involvement of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Programs in aiding and advocating for voting rights can help residents in long-term care facilities exercise their right to vote. 

Ombudsmen Voting Briefing
A briefing prepared by the National Ombudsmen Resource Center that discusses the effects of long-term care ombudsmen programs on resident voting in long-term care facilities. The report also lists suggestions on how long-term care ombudsmen programs can become involved in advocating for resident voting in long-term care facilities.

More information for ombudsmen is listed on NORC's Voting Issue page.