California Assemblyman Mike Gato (D-Los Angeles) had heard enough from his constituents to know that something needed to be done. So earlier this year, he introduced AB547, a measure that would protect the state’s senior citizens from voter fraud and abuse.
“I authored AB 547 after hearing stories from my constituents about their parents and grandparents having their right to vote stolen by caretakers.,” Gato said in a release. “This legislation will help preserve the voting rights of some of our most vulnerable citizens- senior citizens under the care of others.”
The law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone providing care or direct supervision to a person who is at least 65 years old to coerce or deceive that senior into voting for or against a candidate or measure contrary to the senior’s intent.
Senior citizens are the fastest growing population in the U.S., especially as the baby-boom generation continues to age. Currently there are more than 35 million people aged 65 and over in the U.S. Of that population, more than a million are currently housed in one of the at least 19,000 assisted living facilities throughout the country.
Although largely anecdotal, there is a growing body of evidence that the voting rights of seniors who live in assisted living facilities are being violated.
“Data to describe the problem are not available,” said Dr. Jason Karlawish, professor of medicine and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “Studies of the attitudes of long term care workers who assist residents voting suggest that many workers have inappropriate views and practices about how to conduct voting in long term care settings, including deciding whether a resident can vote and inappropriately assisting residents.”
Earlier this year, Karlawish along with several other writers including former Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz authored a report for the Election Law Journal on the benefits and challenges of bringing mobile voting to long-term care facilities.
Currently the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging is conducting a project to “identify, publicize and catalyze policy and practice strategies nationwide that promote proper access to the polls by persons with cognitive impairments and protect against the fraudulent manipulation of the vote of this population.”
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.