Voting with a Chronic Illness

Patient Expert
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One month from now, one of the most beautiful things about democracy in action will happen. All over the nation, citizens will go to the polls and cast their vote. This will decide the next president of the United States, as well as a number of state and local government officials.

As a person with a chronic illness, you have some unique challenges as you prepare to cast your vote. Your chronic illness may be unpredictable or limit your mobility. This can affect your ability to attend town halls and other election campaign events, as well as voting on Election Day. A chronic illness may also affect how you vote.

Voting matters

You are voting, aren’t you? Unfortunately, many people feel disempowered during election times. I am sure you have heard the infamous words “my vote doesn’t matter.” Nothing could be further from the truth. One in six voters live with a disability, which can include chronic illness. That is a mighty big voice.

If everyone who thinks they don’t matter decided to vote, it could change the outcome of an election. As well, keep in mind that if you have a preference for a candidate or an issue, not voting essentially gives the other side your vote. Not only would you not put your support behind the person or issue you want to prevail, but you would increase the chance of the election going the other way.

Chronic illness issues in the election

There are many issues that determine how you vote. What are some of the issues that matter to you as a person with a chronic illness? For instance, you could feel strongly about the war on opioids and how it affects your access to pain management, the cost of medication, and the rights of insurance companies to block your doctor’s prescription in favor of another medication. You might also be concerned about the ability to use Biologics when you are on Medicare or SSDI or whether you will have to take a biosimilar instead of the Biologic that is currently working for you. Find out where the candidates stand on what is important to you by researching them online through their websites or in-person, if possible with your mobility, at a town hall or another appearance they might make before the election.

Are you registered to vote?

In order to cast your vote, you must be registered. Each state has certain requirements for you to register. If you meet these requirements, you can register in person, by mail, or online, and you must do so by a certain period of time before the election. This can range from as short as seven days to as much as 30 days before Election Day. If you are reading this, you have access to the internet. Why not register right now? It will only take two minutes.

Accessibility and polling stations

If your chronic illness affects your mobility, you can still vote. There are a number of laws that ensure that polling places are accessible. These laws also mandate the availability of alternative ways of voting in case the polling place is not accessible, as well as voting aids.

Unfortunately, accessibility at polling places may not be ideal. Large crowds, long wait times, and lack of parking can prevent people with disabilities and chronic illness from voting. Being part of the excitement on Election Day is important. However, if your chronic illness causes pain and fatigue, you may want to explore an alternate way of voting.

Vote early

Having a chronic illness can interfere with pretty much all aspects of your life, including voting. What if you wake up on Election Day and realize you have to spend all day catering to your chronic illness? If you waited until the Big Day to vote, you risk losing your opportunity to participate in the election.

Luckily, most states offer their citizens the ability to vote early. If you are housebound, you may also be able to vote by absentee ballot. Some states require a reason to allow you to vote this way.

My take

One of the most important things you can do for yourself, for other people who live with chronic illness, and for your country, is to vote. What happens over the next several years within your community, your state, and your country depends on you. The rest of the world depends on you, as well — who you elect for state and federal governments determine foreign policy. Being able to vote is a privilege and a responsibility.

And having had a hand in deciding who governs the nation also means that you get to complain about the government for the next four years_You can find more information on a variety of issues related to accessibility and elections on the website of the_ Election Assistance Commission. You can also learn more about issues related to disability and elections by following #CriptheVote events on social media.

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Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.

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