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How Five States are Helping Seniors Vote

Seniors are the most reliable voters during election season. Their strong sense of civic duty and passion for their causes are why they vote. Despite their dedication, it’s not always easy for seniors to vote on election day.

Why Seniors Need Help for Elections

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Certain obstacles can prevent seniors from participating in an election. Some seniors have physical disabilities that make it hard to travel to voting polls. Others don’t always have reliable transportation on Election Day. Those with vision and writing problems find it difficult to fill out the ballot. The actual act of voting seems to become harder with age.

In addition to mobility issues, some seniors may be discriminated against due to their age. Voter ID laws require all registered voters to have a birth certificate or driver’s license. Many seniors do not have a birth certificate because it was not the standard practice during their time. Retired seniors who stopped driving are unlikely to renew their driver’s license. And if their ID is expired, they can't register to vote. These types of problems discourage many seniors from going to the polls.

Luckily, some states are helping seniors get out and vote. These states understand the value of engaging seniors in their election. Here are five states that provide seniors with extra support during an election: 

Minnesota

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Minnesota ranks as the top state for highest voter turnout rate.  A staggering 85% of their 65 and older population voted in the 2012 election. Minnesota’s government makes sure seniors are familiar with and included in the voting process. They achieved this fantastic senior voter turnout two ways:

  • Minnesota teaches seniors how to use new voting machines. At state fairs, government officials teach local seniors how to use the new voting machines. The state government understands that new technology can be difficult to learn. Teaching seniors how to use the machine makes them better prepared on Election Day.
  • The city does not require Voter ID registration. Older people without birth certificates don't have to worry about securing one.

Wisconsin

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Wisconsin has a strong history in political participation and competitive races during elections. Seniors in Wisconsin take their civic duty seriously. They encourage and expect everyone to vote. On top of their strong political culture, Wisconsin modified laws to encourage senior participation and made improvements such as:

  • Allowing same-day registration for the election. This gives seniors the chance to register and cast their ballot on the same day.
  • Having open primaries. They don’t need to register under specific parties. Seniors can participate and vote regardless of their affiliation. 

Vermont

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Many politicians consider Vermont to be a top state in political engagement. Despite this, voter turnout has decreased in the past years. To improve voter turnout, Vermont has started newer campaigns to target seniors. Each year, they review their voter laws to avoid age discrimination. When the state goes above and beyond, their seniors feel more welcomed and engaged in the election. Vermont did this two ways:

  • Implementing mobile polling. In mobile polling, officials visit retirement homes for seniors to vote on-site. They assist seniors with questions about the candidates, and teach them how to fill out a ballot.  
  • Include seniors with disabilities. Unlike many states, Vermont does not prohibit voting for people with cognitive disabilities. Since cognitive problems become more prominent with age, this law does not discriminate against seniors.

Maine

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Political engagement is high in Maine due to its history of close and competitive races. In the past, Maine focused on engaging young voters. Today, the state is making new strides to reach out to seniors:

  • For the 2016 election, Maine will host polling stations at schools. Placing the polls at nearby, familiar places make it easy for their senior citizens to get out and vote. 
  • Make the voting experience relaxing. Maine is offering chairs and water at polling stations for people to relax. Older citizens won’t need to stand in the long lines.

Washington

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In the nation, Washington has one of the highest percentages of seniors requiring assisted care. As a result, the state believes in making voting as accessible as possible to all ages. Their government believes that civic duty to vote should not be a struggle. Washington seniors are more likely to engage in elections than seniors in other states. Washington did this a couple different ways:

  • Washington state only implements a vote-by-mail option. This is beneficial to seniors, who may not be able to leave their home. Mail-in ballots make it easy and convenient for everyone, especially seniors, to vote.
  •  If seniors want to register in-person, local officials have arranged vans. These vans will take them to the county offices and help them register. Even though online and mail in registration is available, Washington understands it’s important to offer the complete experience.

Power to Seniors

The process of aging has made it difficult for older adults to participate in elections. Reducing barriers in the voting process will help  seniors to vote. Seniors have always proven themselves to be passionate voters. When states put in the effort to help older voters, seniors feel more valued. At Alert1, we’d love to see other states follow in these five states’ footsteps and encourage seniors voting. 

Comments

12:12 PM on October 26, 2016 Sophia Wendt
loving the idea of the motor voter!!
4:27 PM on October 26, 2016 Cynthia Greene
I'm very proud to live in Maine, this article reminds of of that. It is a great place for seniors to come and find peace and quiet for their "golden" years. I encourage everyone to visit.
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