Voting from a hospital bed: Emergency absentee ballot help available for Michigan Medicine patients

Medical students and hospital staff team up for rapid response

Authors | Kara Gavin | Jina Sawani

A medical emergency doesn’t have to keep Michigan Medicine patients from casting their ballot in the Nov. 3 national, state and local election, thanks to the efforts of a team of staff and medical students.

Patients who are unexpectedly hospitalized and/or have experienced a significant personal emergency in the days leading up to the November 3 voting deadline qualify to request an emergency absentee ballot under state law.

Through teamwork among Michigan Medicine’s Patient Experience, Social Work and Care Management teams, and students from the U-M Medical School, patients can get assistance with the process. 

Students are making themselves available around the clock to be contacted by patient care teams across the University of Michigan’s hospitals and clinics about patients who might qualify before 2 p.m. on Nov. 3. The program began at 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, the time and day set by the Secretary of State, and had already assisted 20 people by 2 p.m. on Nov. 2.

The student volunteers are connecting with patients directly to screen them for eligibility for emergency absentee voting, and directing those who are not eligible for the emergency program to information about regular absentee voting.

For patients who are eligible for emergency absentee voting, the students are providing the appropriate request form and information about how a family member can assist them in requesting their ballot from their city or township clerk, bringing it to them, and delivering it to the clerk.

If the patient does not have family or members of their household available to assist, the students are available in limited cases to assist with delivering the ballot request, bringing the ballot to the patient, and bringing the completed ballot back to the clerk, as provided in the state’s guidelines for emergency absentee voting.(

The deadline for any hospitalized or quarantined Michigander to request an emergency absentee ballot from their clerk is 4 p.m. on Nov. 3; the deadline for the completed ballot to be returned to the clerk is 8 p.m. that day. The index of clerks is available here.   

If you are a patient, or know a patient, who might qualify for emergency absentee voting, ask a member of the care team to page the on-call student using information contained in a recent employee communication.

UPDATE, Election Day, Nov. 3, 3 p.m.: 

The Emergency Voter Initiative has helped several dozen Michigan Medicine patients request and receive emergency absentee ballots, or use the regular absentee voting process, to ensure their voices are heard in the election. 

The photos below show two of those patients, who were assisted by medical students Shelby Hinds and Eric Rosen. 

At 8 o'clock this morning, they left Ann Arbor on an emergency mission, to help two longtime voters who had planned to vote in person but found themselves hospitalized unexpectedly on the eve of Election Day.

The students drove first to Pinconning, then to Bay City, to deliver the patients' signed requests for emergency absentee ballots to their local clerks. Then, ballots in hand, they drove back to University Hospital so the patients could make their choices. The final leg of the journey will be handled by the patients' husbands, who will both return home this evening to drop off their wives' ballots and then go cast their own votes.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


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