A century ago last week, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment, enshrining a woman’s right to vote in the Constitution. But the decades-long struggle did not end there. For years after 1920, many women, including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants, were not able to vote. And for many others, especially African-Americans, casting a ballot was extremely difficult.
As we advocate for the health and well-being of our patients, public health, policy and advocacy can be as important as the scripts we write. Nearly 200 million Americans are eligible to vote by mail and all of NJ’s approximately 6.2 million registered voters will receive mail-in ballots to vote in November’s election, per an executive order by Gov Murphy. If voting by mail, all ballots must be sent through the U.S. Postal Service, postmarked by Nov. 3, and received by county election boards by 8 p.m., Nov. 10 — a week after Election Day.
Below are a few resources to help make your and your patients’ voices heard:
- There are paper NJ voter registration forms in English and Spanish for suite 215 (NJ does not allow online registration)
Here are 6 steps to protect your vote while casting a mail ballot:
- If you need to request a ballot, do it early.
- Read the instructions and seek clarification from election officials if it is confusing. You may need to sign your name more than once to make it valid. Some states require 1 or 2 witnesses or a notary
- If you must sign your name, learn about signature matching. That’s because some states verify your ballot by matching the signature to one or more signatures on file with the government, such as the signature on your driver’s license. In some cases, they use the signature from your original voter registration form, even if it is years or decades old. This can create a risk of rejection for people whose signatures have evolved over time. To make sure your ballot is not rejected because of a false mismatch, find out the rules where you live. If a matching signature is required, sign your name while keeping in mind that election officials may be comparing it with an old signature. If you sign with your initials but your signature on file contains your full name, your ballot might not be counted.
- Avoid stray marks, tears or accidents that could disqualify your ballot. Once you’ve completed your ballot, make sure to follow the directions for placing it inside its envelope or paper sleeve. If there is an inner envelope, and the instructions tell you to seal it, do not forget. Do not use your own envelope to return a ballot. Above all, if you think you made a mistake while filling out your ballot, do not try to fix it. Ask your local election office what to do — they might advise you to start fresh with a new ballot and help you get one.
- Return your ballot as soon as possible. If you do not want to use the mail, there might be other options. Ask your local election official if there are ballot drop boxes available in your community or if you can return it in person at their office. If you plan to mail it, attach postage if necessary and send it back with time to spare.
- Seek reliable information about the process from election officials. Rules for mail voting are complicated. They can vary, even within states, and have undergone dramatic changes this year. Be wary of unverified “facts” about the voting process that have gone viral this year on social media, many of which may be inaccurate.
GME Wellness Committee