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If you are in the hospital on Election Day, you can request an emergency absentee ballot in Ohio

Posted at 10:42 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 23:27:16-05

CLEVELAND — If you find yourself in a hospital and were planning on voting on Election Day, there’s still time. Ohio law allows you to request an emergency absentee ballot until 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Hospital systems like the Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, and University Hospitals are all working with the Board of Elections to make sure any of their patients can cast their ballots.

For MetroHealth patient Catherine Twitchell, who is in the hospital to monitor stomach problems, she was nervous it meant her vote wouldn’t be cast.

“Everyone should vote because we have a say in what happens to us and to our country,” she said. “It was worrisome to me I want a say in this vote.”

With every meal, MetroHealth patients like Twitchell get an informational card regarding how they can cast their ballots.

“Our patients have an opportunity to request an emergency absentee ballot,” said Seona Goerndt, the director of patient experience with the hospital.

All Cleveland Clinic campuses provide the same opportunity.

“We have a team of people that have been trained and sworn in by the Board of Elections and have special election officials who can help complete their application and then can help with the ballot,” said Stephanie Bayer with the Clinic.

Typically, in previous years, board of elections officials will assist any patient who wants to vote by actually going inside the hospice, this year to curb the spread of COVID-19, staff members at the hospitals went through special board of elections training to assist patients. The hospital staff handles the ballots in bipartisan teams and then once the patient completes the ballot, the board of elections workers come and pick the ballots up outside of the hospital.

“Given some of our visitation restrictions and some of the risks, with knowing what PPE to wear especially with COVID patients, our team is better trained in that space,” said Bayer.

She said this year, patients were anxious about being in the hospital during the election.

“We’ve had some patients express some real anxiety about not being able to cast their ballots. We had one patient saying they were going to leave against medical advice so they could vote in person tomorrow,” she said.

For Cleveland Clinic patients like Sheryl Walter, she said it was a relief.

“You’re a citizen of the United States and you have that opportunity, why shouldn’t you use it,” she said. “My grandparents were immigrants. They couldn’t wait to become citizens so they could vote. It was so important to them and it’s an important thing to me,” she said.

If you’re not sick enough to be in the hospital, but shouldn’t be around other people, Mike West with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections said there are still ways you can vote.

“They can have someone drive to the polling place and go inside and ask for their ballot to be brought to their car and they can vote in their car. The voter will have to alert the PEOs in the Polling Location that they need to vote curbside,” he said in an email to News 5.

If you do not have someone to come into the polling location for you, you can call your local board of elections and let the polling workers know that you are in need of assistance.