PORT TOWNSEND – For Janette Force and her 94-year-old mother, getting together to discuss politics and cast their votes has always been a special event.
For the past nine years, Force has visited her mother at Avamere, an assisted living facility in Port Townsend, so they can review the issues and races together before filling out their ballots.
“With COVID, I can’t do that this year,” Force said. “And I realized the people who work at Avamere may not have the time or knowledge to do that with her and other residents. There are a lot of things to know about filling out your ballot, and people often get confused and then just don’t vote.”
That’s why Force, who is executive director of the Port Townsend Film Festival, decided to film a no-frills explainer video geared toward seniors and their caregivers ahead of this year’s Nov. 3 presidential election.
The 3-minute, 40-second video was released Wednesday — the same day Jefferson and Clallam counties mailed ballots to registered voters — on the YouTube channel of Dennis Daneau, former president of the Jefferson County League of Women Voters, which has also posted it on its website.
“I intentionally made it very slow and made sure there were no distracting things going on in the background,” Force said. “I just wanted to remind people of the basic steps and that they don’t have to rush through it.”
The video reviews the rules of voting by mail in Washington state, including the fact that postage is prepaid and signing with an “X” is acceptable so long as it’s accompanied by the signatures of two witnesses.
“They can be nervous, my mother especially, because their hands might be shaky and they don’t feel confident they can sign their ballot,” Force said, noting that her video is also helpful for those who struggle to read the fine-print rules and disclaimers on the ballot.
“Employees at these facilities really do need some guidance on what they can and cannot do to help their residents vote.”
When possible, the Washington state Office of the Secretary of State encourages two caregivers to be present, to confirm that rules are followed. Caregivers should never ask the voter to discuss their vote or share their reasoning and should provide only the assistance requested.
Under state law, only a court can declare an incapacitated person incompetent to vote. Caregivers must provide a ballot to any resident who requests one, and cannot help voters with their voting decisions. For more guidance, see tinyurl.com/PDN-AssistedLivingVote.
Information about issues and races on the ballot can be found in the state-produced voters’ pamphlet, as well as the Peninsula Daily News’ North Olympic Peninsula 2020 Voter Guide, which especially details local issues.
Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected].