The 2016 national election was one of the most memorable elections of our lifetime. In the fall of 2016, nearly 61 percent of eligible voters, or 138 million Americans, took to the polls and cast their vote on important decisions that would affect hundreds of millions of people. In other words, 88 million Americans did not vote in that election. Although voter turnout hit a 20-year low in 2016, it’s in line with the voter turnout trend for the last 40 years. Regardless of political affiliation, these numbers should be startling to all of us who have a stake in American democracy.
I want to urge every member of the Penn Medicine community who is eligible to vote this year to please exercise your right. In our country, law and policy directly affect population health and, this year, policies that impact our health system and our patients are at stake. It’s incredibly important for patients to have access to affordable, quality health insurance to improve health outcomes in the communities we serve. Biomedical research is part of our tripartite mission here at Penn Medicine, and funding for research is critical to foster and sustain innovation. Our frontline providers and staff continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and it is essential that our government sustains its response to this crisis. At Penn Medicine, we are a community made up of care providers and researchers and we have a greater responsibility when we take to the polls.
To simply check your own registration status, register to vote, or request a vote-from-home ballot, text “VOTE PENN” to 34444. As of the end of September, over 3,400 employees and patients have done so. To contact the Penn Medicine Votes team or get your questions answered, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am proud to say that our Penn Medicine Votes team is not only encouraging voting among members of our own community, but also helping our patients during an election year when barriers to voting are more apparent than ever. Barriers such as voter identification requirements, monolingualism, access to a polling place, amongst others, prevent millions of Americans — nearly one in four — from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Policy can often get in the way as well, making it unnecessarily harder for certain populations to vote. As health care providers, we are experts in removing barriers in accessing care. Penn Medicine Votes is working to apply that same logic, that same thinking, to voting.
Originally established in 2016, Penn Medicine Votes is a health system-wide, nonpartisan initiative that was established to help patients and employees vote in a safe and healthy manner. From checking voter registration statuses to helping inpatients fill out emergency absentee ballots when they can’t make it to the polls, the Penn Medicine Votes team removes some of these well-known barriers to voting. And through a partnership with VotER, Penn Medicine Votes enables all, especially communities in need, to vote in this November’s election.
Getting involved in the Penn Medicine Votes movement is easy. Employees can simply visit the Penn Medicine Votes website on the UPHS intranet to learn more and access a variety of tools available in both English and Spanish. You can print materials to hang in workspaces, get active on social media, help patients complete absentee ballots the week before the election, or ask the Penn Medicine Votes team to present at an upcoming meeting.
Now, in the midst of a challenging year, it is our duty to help shape important decisions at all levels of government and advocate for the health and well-being of our patients and community. I encourage you to get involved, to help others who are experiencing barriers to voting, and to vote in November. Many elections in our nation’s history have been decided by a mere hundred votes. This year’s voter turnout is anticipated to be our country’s highest voter turnout in decades, despite being in the middle of a pandemic. And regardless of its outcome, we are all in this together. As Quakers. As Americans.