Letter to Georgia Secretary of State from Jessica Marie Mathis, Savannah, GA 1/4/2021
January 4th, 2021
Secretary of State Georgia
214 State Capitol,
Atlanta, GA 30334
Dear Georgia Secretary of State,
My name is Jessica Marie Mathis and I am a Savannah resident with a disability. I am a registered voter in the State of Georgia. During this Senatorial Runoff election cycle. I am working in collaboration with REV UP Georgia and Seed the Vote. These two groups empower and encourage people with disabilities of all ages to get out the vote. I am writing you this letter because I am very concerned about seniors who live in nursing and assisted living facilities having the right to vote and make their voices heard.
I was trained as a Deputy Registrar on February 7, 2020, in Savannah, GA before, COVID-19, and did voter registration in my community. I would like to ask assistance from the Secretary of State to alert all 159 Georgia county Registrar of Voters to contact and engage other Deputy Registrars like me to reach out to Georgia nursing facilities to assist them.
Due to the coronavirus’s impact, many seniors with disabilities who live in nursing and assisted living facilities had to be relocated to a nursing facility as a result of a medical emergency and extreme medical risk living at home. In addition to that, seniors with disabilities who live in nursing and assisted living facilities must live in extreme self-isolation, often having no direct contact with their family members and little connection with the outside world; they are fighting for their lives daily.
Across the State of Georgia, many Georgia residents did not receive their absentee ballots in time to participate in this critical election, and a huge number of residents in these facilities had their absentee ballots sent to their previous residence. “The ability to vote in the upcoming election presents significant difficulties for residents of long-term care facilities. In prior years, many facilities served as polling places, making it easier for residents to vote. Additionally, residents were able to leave facilities and travel to their polling place or rely on loved ones to bring them mail-in ballots. This year, because of the serious risk that COVID-19 poses to residents of long-term care facilities, polling stations have been moved, facilities have been locked down, and residents cannot rely on their loved ones to help them vote. For most residents, the only way they will be able to vote is by mail.”
Seniors with disabilities are one of the highest risk for getting the Covid-19 virus. “COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 long-term care facility residents and staff as of the last week in November.” An NBC report in December found that 39% of COVID-19 deaths have been in long term care settings If Georgia and the United States is a real place of freedom and equity ; then people of all abilities and backgrounds should have the right to make their voices heard. Far too often the votes and voices of people with disabilities and seniors are overlooked because society feels that they are too weak.
Voting and making our voices heard is very critical at this time because we as people with disabilities must do our part to ensure that our elected officials of this state can help us to gain necessary and life-saving services such as Medicare and adequate hospital care. People say that this is the year of the Two Pandemics. One because we- as nation are experiencing high levels of conflict and injustice around access to our basic rights like affordable housing and the right to vote. No matter which side you are on please correct this injustice and help us to our nation. We have the power to create change
Secretary of State – What will the State of Georgia do to improve their voting and election procedures and practices to make them more accessible?
I am in touch with a volunteer group of mostly seniors and people with disabilities from around the country who are working together to call social workers in Georgia nursing facilities to assist them in making sure all residents who want to vote can get their absentee ballots and can vote in the Tuesday January 5, 2021 Senate run-off elections. We have a list of 357 nursing and long term care facilities in Georgia, and our volunteers have reached about 85 facilities so far. I live in Savannah and will be reaching out to the 8 Savannah nursing homes on this list to see if I can assist them as Deputy Registrar. Please help us ensure all of Georgia’s residents can vote by alerting all 159 Georgia county Registrar of Voters to contact and engage other Deputy Registrars like me to reach out to Georgia nursing facilities to assist them. We have a volunteer team who are already calling these facilities- we need your leadership to email and engage the Deputy Registrars who are trained to go out to the community long term care facilities who request assistance.
Unlike many younger and more able-bodied voters, none of these nursing facility residents can leave their facilities to go to polling places to vote due to COVID-19, so we need to go to them. We need to ensure that there is a Deputy Registrar who can go to every nursing facility in Georgia that requests help to ensure that all residents can have their vote counted.
Thank you for your time and consideration
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Jessica Marie Mathis
Concerned Georgia Citizen and Community Advocate
11515 White Bluff Road, Savannah, GA 31419