Doctors, hospitals launch voter registration efforts

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Alister Martin, an emergency room doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, poses outside the hospital, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Boston. Martin founded the organization "VotER" to provide medical professionals voter registration resources for patients who are unregistered voters. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON – An emergency room doctor in Boston is assembling thousands of voter registration kits for distribution at hospitals and doctor's offices.

Later this month, students at Harvard and Yale’s medical schools are planning a contest to see which of the Ivy League rivals can register the most voters.

And a Rhode Island physician has launched an effort to get emergency ballots into the hands of patients who find themselves unexpectedly in the hospital around Election Day.

Amid the dual public health crises of COVID-19 and racism, some in the medical community are prescribing a somewhat nontraditional remedy: voting.

Hospitals, doctors and healthcare institutions across the country this month are committing to efforts to engage Americans in the election process as part of Civic Health Month, a nationwide campaign that kicked off Aug. 1.

Hospital networks in Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and elsewhere are among more than 60 institutions participating, along with thousands of individual physicians.

Benjamin Ruxin, a Stanford University graduate student who heads the campaign, said the coronavirus pandemic underscores the importance of ensuring everyone can vote and help shape healthcare policy for the challenging times ahead.

Voter registration rates are down almost 70% in some states this election cycle because the traditional ways of registering voters have been curtailed by the pandemic, including DMVs and in-person registration drives, he said.