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Intermountain Healthcare helps patients vote

By Barbara Christiansen daily Herald - | Nov 4, 2014

There’s early voting for those who may not be in town for Election Day.

There are absentee ballots for those unavailable for a longer period of time.

Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to permit those with almost any kind of work schedule to find a time to vote.

But one segment of the population faces different circumstances — people who are patients in hospitals. Some know ahead of time they will be admitted and can plan ahead to vote. But for others, their hospital stay may be unplanned, or they may not have thought about voting prior to their admittance.

Enter Intermountain Healthcare, which has provided a service for its patients. It’s called the emergency absentee ballot.

“It’s really neat to be able to approach the patients and tell them we have an opportunity for them to vote,” said Ethan Shumway, communications and community outreach director of Intermountain Healthcare’s south region.

On Tuesday morning, representatives of the three Utah County Intermountain hospitals — American Fork, Orem Community and Utah Valley Regional Medical Center — spoke with each of their more than 200 combined adult patients, asking whether they were interested in voting. Many were surprised.

“People think they are in the hospital and can’t hit the polls,” Shumway said. “We approached all of our patients with a simple form and asked if they would like to vote. We gathered their names and home addresses.

“This morning at 10:30 was our meeting time. We took those forms to the elections office in Provo.”

Those at the elections office were aware of the project and were prepared to pull the ballots specific to the individual patients, based on their residences.

“There were 39 people who wanted to vote,” Shumway said. “A lot had done their mail-in absentee ballot already.”

He said with numerous interruptions, it took about 90 minutes to pull those ballots and prepare to send them to the patients.

In the almost 15 years Intermountain has provided the service, it is the largest number of patients who have voted through the hospital, Shumway said.

Staff members at the three hospitals returned those ballots to the patients for them to fill out and seal them for later pickup and delivery to the county elections office.

Some, however, asked for help.

“One of my staff members just got back with a ballot,” Shumway said Tuesday afternoon. “There was a patient in her 90s who asked the worker to sit and read all the rules and bylaws to her.

“Kudos to her. She wanted to be an informed voter.”

Cami Hill, Intermountain’s communications specialist for the south region, had a similar experience.

“I went in to talk to one lady this morning,” she said. “She didn’t know if she was registered to vote. She was really excited when I came back and told her she was.

“She said she didn’t really know what the issues were. I sat with her for about a half-hour and read through the ballot. She was then able to make her decisions and vote.”

“It was clear that most of the patients were patriotic and wanted to participate in the process. They were very concerned about voting responsibly.”

Hill appreciated being able to help out.

“It was really fun to be able to go in, talk to the patients and learn a little bit more about the people who are in the hospital,” she said. “It is nice to feel you are performing a service.”

“We love it,” Shumway said. “It is really a fun thing for us to do.”

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