Hundreds of health centers across the nation this year have been assisting patients, staff and their communities to register to vote. Are they making a difference? Yes, they are! Here is just one inspiring story…
Ms. Joanna Jenkins has been a patient at Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, Inc.’s Elijah Washington Medical Center in Sheldon, South Carolina, since the early 1970’s, where Afolabi Oguntoyinbo, MD, has served as her physician. When Dr. Oguntoyinbo saw Ms. Jenkins recently, the conversation came up about voting.
Despite her family having encouraged her for years to register to vote, at the age of 108 she never had. As this local news article by The Island Packet notes, Ms. Jenkins grew up at a time when Jim Crows laws were still enforced, and she and her family were not allowed to vote. Ms. Jenkins’ cousin, Arinethia Ferguson, makes an important point:
“Here it is, we have healthy, young, able people who have never been told they can’t vote, but don’t…Everyone who is eligible and able to vote, should. If a 108-year-old woman can do it, so can you.”
Because her health center provider talked to her about voting, and her health center was able to help her register to vote, Ms. Jenkins is now a registered voter and has voted absentee for the upcoming election. We never know all the barriers health center patients may be facing, like not being able to read or write or just being intimidated by the voting process itself. But, as Ms. Jenkins’ story highlights, by simply talking with patients about voting and providing the opportunity or assistance to help them register to vote or request an absentee ballot, Community Health Centers truly can open access to civic participation to anyone.
Learn more about Community Health Vote and how Community Health Centers are increasing voter participation in their communities through legal, permissible, nonpartisan voter engagement activities– voter registration, voter education, and get-out-the-vote: www.CHCVote.org