Susan B. Anthony once said: “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it."
However, sometimes “using it” comes with its own struggles. This is certainly true for individuals with disabilities who are patients in psychiatric hospitals.
One of DRM's core missions is to protect and advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities who are patients in psychiatric hospitals. This means that we advocate for individuals to exercise their right to vote.
In the month leading up to Election Day 2020, DRM distributed over 700 voting information packets to all of Maine’s psychiatric hospitals. These packets were designed to ensure that both current patients, as well as those admitted the month before the election, would have information on how to make sure they could exercise their right to vote.
The packet contained the Maine Secretary of State's voting guide, information on how to obtain an absentee ballot and how to register to vote. Also included was information on how to ask hospital staff for help by making access to voting part of the treatment planning process, as well as Disability Rights Maine’s contact information.
For individuals who were admitted to the hospital just prior to Election Day, but for whom the packets would not be helpful, DRM was available to offer direct assistance.
On Election Day, DRM had two such cases. One man had been admitted the weekend before the election. He was in his 60's, a former poll volunteer and had never missed voting in any election...ever. DRM worked with the hospital to make sure that this man was able to have his ballot cast on that day.
A woman at a different hospital had the same experience. She was also admitted the weekend before the election. She was in her 40s and had a number of family and friends who had served in the military. She felt it was her duty to vote during every election so as to honor her family and friends who had served. DRM worked with the hospital to ensure that this woman was able to cast her ballot that on Election Day.
The right to vote is one of the most important rights and DRM was there to make sure that people not only received information on how to exercise their rights but also assistance on election day.