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Civic Engagement in Healthcare

Is it legal to conduct voter registration activities in hospitals and other healthcare settings?

Yes, it’s legal for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to conduct nonpartisan voter registration and education activity.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 allows hospitals to facilitate nonpartisan voter registration for interested patients. (The same law also designated DMVs as voter registration agencies.)

Furthermore, the IRS explicitly states that “501(c)(3) organizations may conduct voter engagement”, and the Health Resources & Services Administration has affirmed that community health centers can run “non-partisan voter registration efforts as a means of reducing barriers to civic engagement within the communities they serve.”

What about HIPAA?

Patients choose whether to use Vot-ER’s platform, and when they do so, they share information on their own phones. Thus, voter information is not subject to HIPAA regulations.

In the event that you help a patient enter their information on the voter registration platform, do not use patient data from their medical record. Only use information you received directly from the patient.

My institution has concerns that noncitizens will register to vote using Vot-ER.

Both online voter registrations platforms and offline voter registration paperwork provide clear information about who is eleigible to vote, and require the registrant to affirm that they are a U.S. citizen.

Where are Vot-ER tools currently used?

Vot-ER tools are used at hundreds of healthcare sites, ranging from large academic medical centers like Massachusetts General Hospital and UPenn, to community hospitals like Tuscon Medical Center and primary care clinics like First Choice Primary Care. You can view an updated list of participating sites at vot-er.org/map. 

I’m worried that this type of outreach will interfere with care.

Vot-ER helps clinics implement civic engagement while ensuring an uninterrupted care experience for patients and staff.

All of Vot-ER ‘s tools and programs are designed to work independently of healthcare staff involvement, and voter registration is done exclusively through patients’ personal devices. A voter text hotline is available to patients 24/7.

More than 130 healthcare sites and thousands of health care professionals across the country use Vot- ER in their daily practice. If you’re concerned about the impact of civic engagement on your clinic’s operations, please reach out. We want to work with you to address your concerns.

My institution has concerns that non-US citizens will be turned away by the stigma of voter registration at the hospital.

We understand how important it is to address the barriers that many immigrants face when seeking care. Vot-ER tools and programs can be implemented in a thoughtful way that doesn’t exclude non-citizens. Our partners at AltaMed and Voto Latino recommend creating a habit of asking every patient, but in an open ended way: “The same way I care about your physical health, I also care about your civic health. How can I help you or your family get registered to vote?”.

Another way is to create non-intrusive opportunities for eligible patients to connect with our voter registration platform by placing Vot-ER posters, handouts, and badges in select areas.  Ultimately, we leave it up to each site to weigh the risks and benefits of promoting voter registration.

Is there a fact sheet or one-pager I can share with my institution?

Yes, please download and share our fact sheet.

Be sure to emphasize that Vot-ER ‘s tools are nonpartisan, non-intrusive, and completely voluntary. Patients decide for themselves if they want to use Vot-ER’s platform, and can only access the platform using their own phones.

Vot-ER Badges

Do I have to get approval before wearing a Vot-ER badge?

The vast majority of health care workers do not need to get approval. As a healthcare professional, you’re free to place any information on your ID badge that is helpful to you and your patients. The important thing to remember is that patients choose whether to use Vot-ER’s registration platform and when they do so, they share information on their own phones. In short, you are offering patients an opportunity to access voter information—you’re not conducting the registration yourself.

What if patients have questions about voter registration that I cannot answer?

We partnered with VoteRiders to create a patient helpline with a chatbot and live person available 24/7 in English and Spanish.

How can I get started while I wait for my Vot-ER badge to arrive?

We’re so excited to have you on board! To get started right away, you can print a badge, download voter registration flyers, add a voter registration message to your email signature, and more at: vot-er.org/download.

Do the Vot-ER badges from last election still work?

Absolutely. All Vot-ER materials will continue to work until at least the end of 2024. Older badges (from before August 2021) have all new features except individualized tracking.

Can I get badges to distribute to other people?

If you’d like to order badges for your group, department, or institution, each member of your team can order their badge right from vot-er.org/badge—just be sure to include the same organization on the order form.

Please note: We no longer ship “bulk orders”. Each team member must order their badge separately.

How do the badges work?

Vot-ER badges are our most popular tool and the fastest way to integrate civic engagement into your hospital. Here’s how the badges work:

  • Scan: Patients or colleagues scan the QR code on the badge with their personal mobile device.
  • Nonpartisan voter platform: The QR connects to Vot-ER ‘s nonpartisan, self-service platform where voters can register, request a mail-in ballot, or learn more about voting.
  • Assistance 24/7: The Vot-ER platform guides users through each step, and if they need further assistance, they can contact our 24/7 helpline.
  • Track your impact*: Badges have unique QR codes that allow each person to track how many voters they’ve helped.
  • Resources: Vot-ER provides online resources and training to help health care workers use the badges confidently and effectively.

* Only badges created since August 2021 have this trackable feature.

I ordered a Vot-ER badge. When will I receive it?

Each Vot-ER badge is printed with a unique QR code (so you can track your impact), so delivery may take up to three weeks. To access voter registration materials in the meantime, go to vot-er.org/download to print a badge, voter registration flyers and more.

Can I order badges for my team or a larger group?

Yes, each member of your team can order their badge at vot-er.org/badge; just be sure to include the same team, department or institution on the order form. Then each team member will receive a badge and lanyard in the mail and can track how many voters they registered individually and as a team!

Please note: We no longer mail “bulk orders” to one person to give to their team— each team member must order their badge separately. You can order custom printable materials for your team at vot-er.org/custom-materials.

Answering  Questions From Colleagues

How do I respond when my colleague asks: I am way too busy to help people register to vote, I bet you are too; why do they want us to do this?

You can respond to your colleague by saying,

It only takes a few seconds to show patients my Vot-ER badge and direct them to the online voter registration website. And there’s a dedicated helpline that the patient can contact if they get stuck.

I haven’t had to help any patients register—Vot-ER’s platform takes care of that part.

How do I respond when my colleague asks: "Isn't this political?" or "What’s your agenda?"

You can respond to your colleague by saying,

My goal is simply to help patients use their voice. If a patient starts discussing partisan politics, I don’t get involved and instead redirect to a discussion about why it’s important that all voters participate in every election. And the badge is from a non-partisan organization called Vot-ER. Vot-ER doesn’t endorse any candidate or party, they’re just working to make it easier for all voters to become civically engaged.

How do I respond when my colleague asks: What's up with your badge?

This badge is from a nonpartisan organization called Vot-ER. They’ve worked with hundreds of hospitals and clinics like ours to bring more civic engagement opportunities to healthcare. When patients scan this QR code, they’re directed to a website where they can quickly check their voter registration or request a mail-in ballot . I’d love to help you get your own badge, too—are you interested?

How do I respond when colleagues ask: Do patients (or clients) get upset with you?

You can respond to your colleague by saying,

That doesn’t typically happen. Actually, most patients have been happy to have the opportunity to register or check their registration. Of course, if they choose not to register, I respect that decision, and I don’t pressure them.

How do I respond when my colleagues asks, "Why is it our responsibility to help others to vote?"

You can respond to your colleague by saying,

We both have cared for patients whose primary issue was not medical. I view it as part of my professional responsibility to help patients access voter information. It’s one of the best tools our patients have to ensure they have a voice in the local and federal decisions that affect their health.