Raleigh General Patients Fulfill Their Civic Duty

November 13, 2018

You’ve researched. You’ve identified your candidates. But on Election Day, you find yourself in the hospital. What now?

Previously at Raleigh General Hospital, nursing staff instructed patients if they wanted to vote, they could call their county clerk’s office and arrange for an emergency absentee ballot.

But this year, in effort to simplify the process for patients, Raleigh General made all the arrangements.

“Dan Shelford brought this idea to me,” said Debbie Peyton, volunteer and Senior Friends director.

As a veteran, Shelford, who is the hospital’s assistant chief nursing officer, is especially patriotic, Peyton said.

“When Dan brings an idea to me, it’s always worth following through.”

Peyton directed Connie Ray, a volunteer, to visit every patient in the hospital who wasn’t critically ill, to ask them if they wanted to vote.

In all, 17 patients said they wanted to vote — 10 from Raleigh County; three from McDowell; two from Greenbrier; one from Fayette; and one from Wyoming. Thirteen of the 17 were able to cast their ballots.

Each county has individual ordinances about emergency absentee ballots, Peyton said. In a couple counties, Raleigh General was outside the range election officials could travel to administer the ballots. In another county, election officials would have needed more advanced notification.

“We were disappointed we weren’t able to get all the counties,” she said. “We may need to do a bit more homework going forward.”

Election officials from Raleigh and McDowell counties verified the names and registration status of the would-be voters, then brought paper ballots to the patients at the hospital.

“The patients were very appreciative,” Peyton said. “They were thinking they wouldn’t be part of the election, so they were thankful they were able to do that.”

The hospital administration made a concerted effort to encourage staff and patients to vote this year.

“It was about trying to remind people to do their civic duty,” Peyton said. “I was amazed when we talked to employees at the number who have never voted.”

For Peyton, she said she can’t imagine not voting. Once she was eligible, her dad expected her to vote.

“My father and I didn’t agree on politics, but we agreed you need to vote.”

Her mom was a poll worker, so she was able to see the election “behind the scenes,” which further instilled for her the value of voting.

She said once she was able to secure the opportunity for 13 patients to vote, she was excited.

“It was a really good feeling to know these people were going to cast their ballot.”

And Peyton said she’ll keep the four patients unable to cast their ballots due to county ordinance restrictions in mind for the next election as the hospital tries to work with individual county clerks, as well as the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office to see if changes can be made to allow all patients who want to vote the opportunity to do so.

By Wendy Holdren, The Register Herald