Doctors Are Helping Patients Vote From Their Hospital Beds
Politics| | By Mauricio Castillo
Every vote counts, and a group of Massachusetts doctors are making sure even hospitalized patients have their voices heard. The Social Justice Coalition for Cambridge Health Alliance gathered together this past summer with one of their goals being to find ways to help recently hospitalized patients cast their vote in time for the presidential election.
Co-founder Dr. Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu said to ABC News, “We do serve a population that can be low income or vulnerable [in] other situations.” Okwerekwu works at Cambridge Hospital, and has made it her mission to give the patients there the ability to cast a vote even though they may not be able to get up and go cast a ballot themselves.
After contacting several electoral officials in October, the alliance learned that, in the state of Massachusetts, patients could submit an absentee ballot. All they had to do was fill out an application, which would then be exchanged for an absentee ballot, to be mailed by Election Day.
“The coalition wanted to make sure that their patients’ votes were not suppressed and their voice was heard…that’s why we took on this project. Once we figured out the logistics and rules and what the actual policy was, we put together some literature…that literature we attached to an application for the actual ballot,” Okwerekwu said.
Okwerekwu has even been doing some of the “grunt work” herself, especially on this Election Day: “We’ve been giving out the applications and helping patients get in touch with local election offices or faxing and emailing the forms,” she said. “I’m actually in the car. I’m on the way to a town hall to drop off a ballot.”
Many patients have even designated some doctors as proxies to exchange the application for an absentee ballot.
“The Social Justice Coalition’s mission is simple: honor the intrinsic and indisputable worth of all people,” Okwerekwu wrote in an essay for STAT News. “Promote equity across all domains. Improve the social, cultural, economic, environmental, and political health of the communities we serve. Empowering hospitalized patients to vote is part of that mission.”
Doctors are meant to do no harm and help the helpless. This is just another way they are honoring that code.