GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Two of biggest topics in the US right now are the elections and the coronavirus.
And thousands of voters across the country might be wondering how to cast their ballots if they’re fighting COVID from a hospital bed or quarantined at home.
It’s known as an emergency absentee ballot and it’s not just for COVID patients.
Anyone in the hospital or quarantined who’s not able to make it to the polls can request one.
“In the past this hasn’t been a huge issue they’ve been very very rare,” said Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons.
State law allows people to still vote even if they’re sick or in the hospital. She says it’s only happened a handful of times but with COVID that may change.
“With quarantine issues and things like that it certainly could be a higher possibility this election cycle,” she said.
Statistics from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show at least 1,479 adults are in the hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID as of Monday.
Mercy Health sent out guidance for doctors and nurses for those in similar situations where voters may unexpectedly find themselves in the hospital near election day.
“If something comes up on Election Day and you find yourself personally disabled or you have a death in the family or a family member who’s sick and you have to be out of your community the entire time the polls are open – when you planned to go vote – there’s still an opportunity for you to get an emergency absentee ballot up until 4 o’clock on Election Day,” said Posthumus Lyons.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office here’s how it all works if you’re in the hospital and want to vote:
If you already have an absentee ballot, you can authorize a family member, mail carrier, or local election official from the clerk’s office to return it for you.
If you don’t have the ballot you can request one through Friday.
Emergency absentee ballot requests can only be made between 5pm the Friday before the election and 4PM on Election Day.
They can be requested due to a personal injury or illness or a family death or illness that keeps you away from the polls.
The voter can have someone deliver the written request to their local clerk.
They may also authorize that person to bring the ballot back but it must be in writing and signed by the applicant.
Emergency absentee ballot applications have to be in by 4PM on Election Day and back to the clerk’s office that night by 8PM.
“When it comes to your personal health or life and death situations, we want you to still be able to cast your vote and make your voice heard,” she said.
Those emergency ballot rules apply if you’re in the hospital or quarantined at home.
If you need to request one after Friday, contact your local clerk.
You can find your clerk by clicking this link and putting in your county or address.