Nurses Lisa Schavrien and Erin Ainslie Smith wanted their patients’ voices to be heard on Election Day, even if they were unable to physically leave the hospital. So the two Lenox Hill nurses, along with a 20-person volunteer group, came together to help patients cast their vote this past Tuesday, according to the New York Post.
The volunteers headed into New York’s five boroughs to submit the applications, retrieve ballots, and bring them back to the hospital. After distributing the ballots, the volunteer team ran back to the boroughs to submit patients’ votes before the polls closed.
“Usually, it’s on the patients to get the ballots at the board, go to the hospital to fill them out, then back to the board on Election Day,” Ainslie told INSIDER. “A lot of patients couldn’t do that leg work or get a friend or family member to do it for them, so I thought it’d be good to help out ourselves.”
Ainslie and Schavrien first got the idea to help with voting back in 2016. At the time, one of Schavrien’s patients requested help casting her vote and the nurse obliged. Before that, the hospital only provided applications for absentee ballots.
For the 2018 general election, the duo collaborated to submit over 40 ballots on behalf of Lenox Hill patients.
Many of the patients Ainslie and Schavrien helped were admitted to the hospital last-minute and figured they would have to sit this election out due to unforeseen circumstances. Some, like a woman having brain surgery scheduled on Election Day, were simply unable to leave.
“Lisa explained the program to her and the woman said ‘I’m not letting them cut me open until I get my ballot,’” Ainslie told INSIDER. “She was so happy to hear about what we were doing.”
The volunteers also helped women in labour and an elderly couple who had to stay in the hospital on Election Day.
Currently, the best way to vote if you are unexpectedly hospitalized is through emergency medical absentee voting. However, Ainslie and Schavrien are hoping their program inspires other hospitals to create similar initiatives and that the Lenox Hill program grows.
“For 2020, we want to get 200 ballots in from patients,” says Ainslie. “We want to help even more.”
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