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NC Doctors Help Patients Register to Vote, Request Mail-in Ballots

Across the country, healthcare providers are helping patients register to vote or request mail-in ballots. (Adobe Stock)
Across the country, healthcare providers are helping patients register to vote or request mail-in ballots. (Adobe Stock)
October 19, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Some medical schools, clinics and community health centers in North Carolina are now giving patients the option to register to vote, check to see if they are registered to vote or request a mail-in ballot.

The nationwide initiative, known as "Vot-ER" aims to boost voter registration in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.

Dr. Alister Martin, founder of the group, an emergency room physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member for the Center for Social Justice and Health at Harvard Medical School, said the medical schools at Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill have registered hundreds of people to either vote or request a mail-in ballot using iPad kiosks and flyers with a scannable barcode patients can access using their smartphone.

"Voting is now a public issue because of COVID-19," Martin contended. "Who better than health-care providers like physicians, nurses, other health-care workers to help guide patients to vote?"

Martin added across the country, voter-registration rates are down, largely due to the pandemic's shutdown of public places such as the DMV or community outreach events where people are most likely to get registered.

Health-care providers can visit vot-er.org to order a healthy-democracy kit.

He said the effort has put voting on the radar of health-care providers, who are less likely to make heading to the polls a priority.

"Not a lot of folks know this, but health-care providers like physicians vote at 10% lower rates than the average population," Marin noted.

Martin added the health of communities is linked to civic engagement. He pointed out 80% of what constitutes an individual's health is made up of factors called social determinants, such as access to healthy food, education, and clean air and water.

"These factors have a huge impact on what it means to be healthy in this country," stressed. "And the running thread, the thing that connects all of these issues that we refer to as the social determinants of health, is civic engagement."

Martin said so far, health-care providers have helped more than 2,800 North Carolinians get started on their voter registration or mail-in ballot request process.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC