New ACP Toolkit Aims to Get Out the Vote

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Through a partnership with Vot-ER, ACP provides resources to members to help them discuss voting with patients, encourage patients to vote

Feb. 23, 2024 (ACP) -- Safe and equitable access to voting is paramount to better health outcomes, and a new American College of Physicians toolkit aims to encourage members to register and vote and help ensure their patients do the same.

"Voting and health are directly connected through the institution of health-related policies by ballot measures and by the fact that many elected officials incorporate health into their platforms," said Katelan Cline, ACP health policy coordinator. "The two are indirectly related, too, as civic participation and voting connect patients to their community, which is associated with better health outcomes."

ACP policy is opposed to limiting polling hours and locations and attempts at partisan gerrymandering, which can contribute to low voter turnout, particularly among members of historically marginalized populations.

An ACP policy brief published in Annals of Internal Medicine in December 2023 highlights the significant amount of work to be done in this area. According to U.S. Census Bureau data cited in the policy brief, one-third of eligible voters did not take part in the 2020 presidential election. Additionally, voter registration data from the Brennan Center for Justice reveals that nearly 25 percent of eligible people are not registered to vote.

As part of the new toolkit, ACP joined forces with Vot-ER, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that strives to integrate civic engagement into health care. Through this partnership, ACP encourages members to utilize several available resources, including a free badge from Vot-ER featuring a QR code for patients to scan on their phones, so they can check their voter registration status, update their voter records, register to vote and request a mail-in ballot. The badge also allows physicians to keep track of how many patients are registered thanks to their advocacy efforts.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 allows health care facilities to facilitate nonpartisan voter registration for interested patients. Patients scan the code on their own phones, avoiding any HIPAA violations, Cline explained.

Through its partnership with Vot-ER, ACP provides resources to help members learn how to talk to patients about voting.

"A lot of physicians tend to shy away from talking about voting because things are so polarized, but talking about registering to vote is nonpartisan," Cline said. "You don't have to discuss how they are voting or who they are voting for, just the importance of voting."

The new toolkit also lists upcoming primary and general federal and state election dates plus voter registration deadlines.

A lot of activity takes place at the state level, according to Cline. "Many state legislatures are currently or will be considering legislation on voting-related laws and those that pertain to reproductive health freedom, protecting the patient-physician relationship and expanding health care coverage," she noted.

The ACP toolkit also outlines ways to help put an end to electoral practices that hinder people's ability to vote, such as advocating for expanded polling locations and/or hours and automatic and same-day voter registration. ACP also calls for the drawing of fair electoral districts by nonpartisan electoral commissions.

More Information

The toolkit on voter registration and equitable access to elections is available on the ACP website.

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Back to the February 23, 2024 issue of ACP Advocate