Hospitals bring the ballot bedside

Nov 3, 2020

Through a special-need ballot system, Central Peninsula and South Peninsula hospitals are helping patients and staff vote without leaving the premises.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Like every good voter, David Martin had a plan. The Soldotna resident was going to vote in person today, like he does every election.

Then, on Monday, he was admitted to Central Peninsula Hospital for an unexpected new development to an existing medical problem. 

“As soon as I came in here and they said they were going to be keeping me for a few days, I was really worried," he said. "I was actually pretty upset. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to vote.”

But he did, this afternoon.

Each election, a member of the CPH staff picks up and delivers ballots for those who can’t vote in person. CPH Director of Organizational Experience Bonnie Nichols said she carried a dozen ballots from the absentee voting center at the Peninsula Center Mall to the hospital and back today, both for patients and hospital employees who couldn’t leave the premises to vote.

“There’s certain specific information you need," she said. "You need a voter identifier, you need the physical address so that the polling workers can pull the right ballot for them, the right precinct. So it’s labor intensive.”

The state of Alaska allows for a personal representative to transport special-needs ballots on or before election day. Nichols is also the witness, so she signs the ballots she delivers.

Southern Peninsula Hospital has a similar program, which one patient utilized today, according to a representative. Both hospitals offer special-needs voting for patients in their long-term care facilities, as well.

Martin said the process was seamless.

“Well, it was kind of nice. I went to the bathroom and came out and the proctor was there," he said. "And she gave me the ballot, and I had a few questions about the ballot measures, which she was pretty good about answering those. And it was nice and smooth.”

Nichols said the patients she helped today all expressed relief about getting to vote. Martin said he voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and that he voted against the incumbent candidates for the other races.

“I felt like with the stakes of this particular election, I needed to make my voice heard, even if nobody wanted to hear it.”

He said he’s watching election results from the hospital tonight.