Protecting my Grandma’s Right to Vote
Written by Melanie Ollett
June 1, 2012
I love my grandmothers. They both have the tendency to drive me up the wall sometimes, but they’re mine. There’s something about grandparents and seniors that makes me want to stop what I’m doing and sit with them for a while to learn from their years of experience.
One of the reasons my paternal “granny” and I often disagree is because we have extremely different politics. She enjoys making controversial statements about politics and won’t listen to more than one particular news network. I am decidedly less controversial and prefer hearing multiple sides of an argument before making a decision about political issues.
Although we disagree, I would never deny my granny the right to express her opinions at the polls. She gets very excited for the elections- probably more excited than most people, and that makes me glad. Whenever my grandmother discusses politics, or I go visit my maternal grandmother in the nursing home, I can’t help but imagine how difficult to actually get to the polls to make their voice heard. Unfortunately, their already difficult voting situation has become worse.
Many states are passing restrictive “Voter ID” laws that largely disenfranchise the elderly -- a reality that gets very little media attention. After their driver’s license expires many seniors do not apply for a new, valid government ID. If they are no longer driving, there is little point; an outdated license still confirms your identity. But if they tried to use this at the polls, they would be turned away. If it weren’t for her six children living close by, my granny may have difficulty getting to a polling center on Election Day or getting a new ID.
My maternal grandmother lives in a nursing home, where she is continuing an arduous 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The nursing home in which she lives is full of adults that are fully cognizant, and enjoy reading newspapers and following the election cycle, but are unable to live on their own for health and wellness reasons. They don’t receive many visitors, which is extremely difficult to observe. Although they have a right to vote, and are interested in the future of the nation just as much as me or my parents, they are left unable to vote because they don’t have access to the proper transportation to the polls, and there are few people who can help them file an absentee ballot.
The greatest population of voters is between 65-74 years old; retirees who are still able to drive, live on their own, and have the time to get out to the polls during the day without worrying about child care or giving up a lunch break. However, the population of people over the age of 75 who vote begins to decline. In some states such as Tennessee, the voting population over the age of 75 decreased their participation in the last election by over 10% in comparison to the 65-74-year-olds. As retirees age and move into assisted living or nursing homes, it becomes more difficult for them to vote. We must work to combat this, and recognize that everyone deserves a vote.
I, for one, will be making sure my granny gets to the polls. How can your congregation invite and encourage the participation of seniors in this year’s election? Think about starting a sign-up sheet to drive older church members to the polls, and visiting those that are in a nursing home to help them fill out an absentee ballot. Their vote and their voice deserves to be heard as loud as yours or mine!