The IRS states that 501(c)(3) organizations are “prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in – or intervening in – any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office.”
What is permissible:
The IRS affirmatively states that “501(c)(3) organizations may conduct voter engagement or connect with candidates on a nonpartisan basis.” This includes encouraging voter participation, educating voters, and talking to candidates about issues. 501(c)(3) organizations may conduct or promote voter registration.
Q: What are the HIPAA issues when doing voter registration?
Because the patient inputs their own information in an opt-in fashion this information is not subject to HIPAA regulations.
In the event that you help the patient put their information into the online voter registration platform to help them register to vote you should not use patient data from their medical record to fill out voter registration forms. Only use information you received directly from the patient.
Q: I want to make sure my colleagues at my institution are registered to vote. What are some easy ways to do that?
Studies show that health care providers vote at lower rates than the general population so your Healthy Democracy Kit can be used to help your colleagues as well as patients.
You can also add this to your email signature: I want to make sure you have a healthy, safe voting experience. Click here to register to vote and request a mail-in ballot to vote from home.
Q: Do I have to get approval before wearing a Healthy Democracy Kit badgebacker and helping get my patients registered to vote?
The vast majority of providers do not need to get approval. This is because like any other badge backer medical students, residents, and attending physicians choose to affix to their IDs, you are free to place information that is helpful to you and your patients on this space.
The important thing to remember is that all voter registration happens on the patient’s own phone using the healthy democracy kit and the information is entered by the patient not you as the provider. In short, it is not you as a medical provider or social worker that is registering the patient to vote but instead it is you triggering the patient to register themselves on their own phone
Q: Is there a one pager or brief explanation I can show my admin about VotER?
Q: Are there other hospitals that use the VotER system that I can show my administration?
Yes at present we partner with over 130 hospitals. Participating hospitals range from large academic medical centers like MGH and UPenn to community hospitals like Tuscon Medical Center and primary care clinic chains like First Choice Primary Care. For a longer sample list click here.
Q:I want to help patients register via a poster and text code while they wait.
Contact your clinic manager. Clinic managers often decide what signage goes up in a clinic setting, you can show them a model poster and see if this is an idea that might work for your clinical setting.
Contact your Emergency Department Operations director. Some hospitals have committees that determine what signage can go up in the hospital. Your operations manager can help to navigate this approval document.
Q: I’m not sure which option is best for my clinical setting.
Many providers in our network have tried multiple means to get their institutions and colleagues on board. You can check out our Resources page to see your options.
Feel free to contact us, we’re happy to troubleshoot what option might work best for you.
Q: My institution has concerns that non US citizens will register to vote or will be turned away by the stigma of voter registration at the hospital.
While this is a valid question the platform does address this concern. First, since it is the patient choosing to register on their own phone they can stop the process at any time. Providers are not actively registering patients to vote. Second, the first question on the secretary of state voter registration site asks about citizenship (example here) as does the non-online voter registration approach on Turbovote for states with no online voter registration — and both provide information to the patient about who can and cannot register to vote to avoid confusion
In terms of the concerns around the stigma of voter registration if you work with an immigrant population then you know it is important to be sensitive to the fears that new immigrants may face when they come to receive care, particularly if you serve populations who are undocumented. We leave it up to each site to weigh the risks and benefits of advertising voter registration. This can be done in a thoughtful, non-coercive, and inclusive manner that does not ostracize non citizens. We recommend against having the system be defaulted to asking everyone about voter registration. Instead, we recommend that the system be set up as passive where patients choose to interact on their own with the materials like posters, handouts, and asking providers about their badge-backers. Resources such as Posters, chat bot, and live helpline are all made available in English and Spanish.
For Healthy Democracy Kit users:
Q: What do I say if my patient asks about my lanyard/badge?
Q: How do I bring up voter registration to my patient?
COVID-19 Relevant Response:With all that’s going on with COVID, I really want to make sure that you can vote in the safest and healthiest way possible. And the best way to do that would be to vote from home. I can help you make sure you’re registered and help you get your vote-from-home ballot while you are here in the office today.
Q: What if patients have hard questions about voter registration that I cannot answer?
Through our partners at VoteRiders we have a VotER helpline featuring a chat bot and live person that are made available to the patient 24/7 in English and Spanish. The goal is to simply start the conversation with the patient and then hand-off to the helpline if patients have questions. From there, the patient can text to have their questions answered or call the number.
Q: My institution has said that we need approval to use VotER Healthy Democracy Kits. Is there legal documentation or basic language that I can share?
It is important to frame the activity correctly with your administration. It is not you as a medical provider or social worker that is registering the patient to vote. Our platform simply serves as a trigger for patients to register themselves on their own phone. At present, users of the VotER platform are not “actively registering” patients to vote.
You can provide information about how VotER can be used to request a mail in ballot. You can bring up voter registration. You can not say anything about specific candidates, Instead, only answer simple facts like what party they are in, if they’re an incumbent or challenger or where they live. Don’t state your preferences.
Q: I’ve had an issue with my Healthy Democracy Kit and I want to chat with someone about it.
Feel free to text our on demand tech support service at: eight 4 eight 2 one eight 000 nine.
Q: I want to help providers at my institution register patients via the Healthy Democracy Kit.
Send out to colleagues via a department mailing list (consider seeking approval from department chair, coordinator, or chief resident before sending department-wide emails, depending on your clinical setting)
Q: I’m waiting for my kit. Is there anything I can do between now and when it arrives?