Despite COVID, N.H. Nursing Home Residents Are Casting Their Ballots | New Hampshire Public Radio

Despite COVID, N.H. Nursing Home Residents Are Casting Their Ballots

Oct 28, 2020

The Edgewood Centre in Portsmouth encouraged its residents to vote absentee this year. Natalie Allen, director of resident relations, then delivered the ballots to the city clerk's office.
Credit Natalie Allen / Edgewood Centre

In the past six years, Kristen Gauthier, a resident relations manager at the Edgewood Centre in Portsmouth, would maybe get a handful of calls or emails from residents about voting.

But this year’s been different.

“I had voicemails every day from staff saying, ‘This person’s looking to see if their ballot got here yet. They want to make sure they voted. Do you have time to come down and work with them?’”

The energy was coming from residents, some of whom have voted in lots of elections.

“We had someone who’s 103 go, where’s my ballot?” Gauthier said.

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Covid-19 has had a profound impact on nursing homes in New Hampshire, but it isn't stopping residents from voting. Because of the pandemic, Edgewood encouraged its residents to vote absentee, which is open to all voters this election.

New Hampshire, however, only allows certain people to deliver those absentee ballots for others. But in 2019, a new law allowed nursing home administrators to do that on behalf of residents, in addition to family members.

“Without that it would have been devastating,” Gauthier said, “Because we're not allowing anyone except essential personnel in right now.”

Bob Perham, who’s 95 years old, says a pandemic was not going to stop him from casting his ballot.

“That's the only way I have to say what's going to happen in this country. I'm not a politcian. I'm not a rich guy,”

Perham was one of 36 Edgewood residents who voted absentee in the general election. Natalie Allen, Edgewood’s director of resident relations, dropped off the absentee ballots for the residents.

She says she and her team have made a strong effort to check-in at least with all residents leading up to Tuesday’s election. In previous voting years, residents could go vote in person, but Edgewood is discouraging that since older people are at higher risk of getting sick with COVID-19.

If a resident did want to go vote in person this year, Allen says Edgewood would be able to coordinate transportation for them. But, because of COVID-related nursing home restrictions, that individual would have to quarantine for 14 days upon return.