ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Residents of nursing homes have had little control over many things for much of 2020, but not everything. There is an effort in Monroe County to help them exercise their right to vote.
“I feel like I really belong now," said Deloris Collins, a resident of The Pearl Nursing Center. She has accomplished plenty in her 73 years, but one thing she’s never done is vote, until now.
“I had seven kids, I made sure all of them voted and they used to tell me I’m making them vote and I didn’t. But I feel so much better since I did though," said Collins.
Deloris is one of nearly 60 people at The Pearl Nursing Center who, despite the pandemic and strict rules surrounding nursing care facilities, are able to cast a ballot.
“My mom used to tell me, every vote counts and she was right,” she said.
“I’m happy with that, I’m surprised, I’m happy with that," said resident Brenda Adams.
"Very important," said resident Stephen Bird.
“I was nervous and excited at the same time, and then when I voted and turned in my ballot I was so satisfied that I had done something for the country and myself," said resident Lorena Zei.
The voting is made possible because of a team effort between the Monroe County Board of Elections, The Pearl Management, and activity director Rachel Paillet.
“It is their right as a United States citizen, this is your right to vote for your government and it’s very important, and I will do anything to make them feel that they know they are counted," said Palliet.
In a normal election year, elections officials would be on-site at facilities like this to assist residents. But the pandemic has made this far from a normal election.
“We still want to make sure that every single resident in nursing homes has the ability to vote,” said Democratic Monroe County Board of Elections Commissioner, Jackie Ortiz. “We have had a team member on our staff that is specifically reaching out to as many nursing homes as possible and coordinating with the manager, a listing of the residents, those who want to vote by absentee, preparing a package for them, doing drop off and pick up.”
“We are trying to assist with whatever we can, whether that’s having a staff member there take the oath to help them fill out a ballot," said Republican Monroe County Board of Elections Commissioner Lisa Nicolay.
Paillet took that oath.
"Yup. You have to sign a sworn statement saying that you are going to do this, yes I’m not going to change their votes, I’m not going to persuade them anyway. I can just inform them on who’s running,” she said.
The folks at The Pearl know firsthand the struggles of the pandemic and recognize that this is a way for them to have a voice.
“I feel real nice about it. Like I knew I belonged, but it gave you more of a feeling like you belong now that you voted," said Deloris.