October 28, 2020 Elder Law

Assisting Voters Who Need Help Voting

By David M. Godfrey, Senior Attorney, ABA Commission on Law and Aging

Every American adult who wants to vote, should be given the opportunity to vote. Voting is a core right in our democracy. Many voters who are ill or disabled face challenges in exercising the right to vote. These voters may need help with registering, getting to the polls, requesting an absentee or mail in ballot, or with completing the voting process. There are two recent publications on helping vulnerable adults vote.

The Commission on Law and Aging has just released a new "quick guide" with the University of Pennsylvania Penn Memory Center, titled, Assisting Cognitively Impaired Individuals with Voting: A Quick Guide. This guide clarifies that any qualified person who wants to vote, should be registered and provided with a ballot. The capacity to vote, is as simple as wanting to vote and completing a ballot. The guide provides tips for enhanced communication and answers ten common concerns about helping a person with diminished capacity vote.

The National Guardianship Association in collaboration with several advocacy groups has developed a guide for voting by persons with a guardian. It starts with checking to see if the person’s right to vote has been limited by state law or the order appointing a guardian or conservator. In many states the person retains this right unless the order specifically limits it. The second step is assuring the person is registered to vote and assisting the person as needed with voter registration. And the final step is helping the person as needed, and as allowed by law, to vote. Options can include helping the person obtain an absentee ballot, or helping the person go to an early voting location or polling place on election day, and with helping them to complete the ballot to reflect their wishes. All states have provisions for assistance for voters with disabilities. Guardians can play a critical role in assuring that the person receives the assistance they want, in compliance with state law. For details please see https://www.guardianship.org/wp-content/uploads/guardians-and-voting-sbh-9-10.pdf

Please think about what you can do to help someone vote. Please share these resources with others who can help someone who wants to vote, vote.  



David Godfrey, J.D., is a senior attorney to the ABA Commission on Law and Aging in Washington DC. He is responsible for the ABA’s role in the Administration on Aging funded National Center on Law and Elder Rights. Prior to joining the Commission, he was responsible for elder law programming at Access to Justice Foundation in Kentucky. Mr. Godfrey earned his B.A. with honors at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and his J.D. cum laude from the University Of Louisville School Of Law in Kentucky. He serves on the board of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys – and was named a Fellow of the Academy in 2019. He loves to travel and has been to 48 states, and 15 countries.