Are we all voting?

A resident sent away without a chance to cast a ballot gets to wondering

Posted 11/20/23

TOWN OF DELAWARE, NY — Helen Demeranville set out to vote at her Town of Delaware polling station on Election Day. She didn’t succeed.

The poll workers couldn’t find her in the …

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Are we all voting?

A resident sent away without a chance to cast a ballot gets to wondering


TOWN OF DELAWARE, NY — Helen Demeranville set out to vote at her Town of Delaware polling station on Election Day. She didn’t succeed.

The poll workers couldn’t find her in the voter rolls. Was she dropped? she wondered. Or did she forget to register?

“I thought I registered when I changed the address on my license,” she told the River Reporter.

She showed the poll workers her Sullivan County jury summons. What better proof is there that I live here? she thought. It didn’t work.

So she asked for an affidavit, which allows people to vote while these kinds of problems are sorted out. But, she said, the poll workers told her that in order to vote by affidavit she had to do it at the county government center in Monticello.

Her husband was able to vote.

Demeranville left the polling station to do some shopping and returned a few hours later. This time, she said, the poll workers told her they could give her an affidavit. “They conceded they checked and were supposed to give me one,” she said.

But when they went to print out the form, the printer did not work. Demeranville said the poll workers were very nice but could not make the printer produce an affidavit form. And they did not have any pre-printed forms on hand.

Demeranville is a caregiver. “After two, maybe three tries, I went home to be with my mother,” she said. “My friend who stays with her leaves at 5 and I did not make arrangements for her to stay late.”

The next day, Demeranville called the county board of elections in Monticello and was told there was nothing they could do.

“Too late to vote in this one,” she told the River Reporter. “I have never had a problem like this before.”

By state law, if a voter believes she is eligible to vote but her name is not found in the poll book on Election Day, or if her address changed but was not updated by the board of elections, or if her signature is missing, she has a right to vote by a paper affidavit ballot. This ballot is sometimes known as a provisional ballot. Election officials will then check to see if the voter is registered and reported to the correct polling station on Election Day. If this is the case, the election officials will cast her ballot. If not, they wlll notify the voter.

Who else isn’t voting?

After her failed voting experience, Demeranville got to thinking about the difficulties that attend this simple act that is the cornerstone of our democracy. She wondered about those who live in long-term care facilities, and how easy, or not, it is to exercise their civic duty. 

She found an October 5, 2020, directive from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that reaffirms a resident’s right to vote during the challenges of the COVID pandemic ( “Nursing homes should have a plan to ensure residents can exercise their right to vote, whether in person, by mail, absentee, or other authorized process,” it states.

It says such a plan might include the provision of a mobile poll conducted by a bipartisan team and assistance in registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, or completing a ballot, whether by a family representative, ombudsman or nursing home staffer.

“Whether or not external assistance is available to come into the facility, nursing homes are required to support a resident in the exercise of their right... to vote, such as assisting with absentee or mail-in voting, or transporting residents to polling locations or ballot drop-boxes in a safe manner,” the directive says.

Garnet Health offers mental health services. Spokeswoman Marcy Manheim says patients might stay at their facility for a few days only, but not long term. “Please note that while we offer mental health services, we are not a mental health facility,” she wrote in an email to the River Reporter.

What if a patient’s stay overlaps with Election Day?

“It is the patient’s responsibility to make arrangements with the local board of elections to vote while they are in the hospital,” Manheim said in an email to the paper. “It is the board of elections’ responsibility to meet the need of the voter.”

“Garnet Health’s obligation is to permit the board of elections representative to visit with that patient to conduct official casting of their ballot,” she added.

Plan required for long-term care residents

The River Reporter asked Sullivan County elections commissioners Lori Benjamin and Deanna Senyk to respond to Demeranville’s experience on Election Day.

“Sullivan County election inspectors are trained to provide affidavit ballots to voters, and affidavit ballots are available at all poll sites, including early voting,” they said in an emailed statement. “Out of concern and respect for voters’ privacy, we do not comment on situations specific to individual voters.”

The statement also said, “The Sullivan County Board of Elections diligently strives to ensure everyone who wishes to vote has the opportunity to do so.

"We take concerns and comments seriously and are always interested in hearing from voters who have issues they wish to address. Anyone who experiences difficulty voting is encouraged to contact our office directly and immediately at 845/807-0400 or"

The River Reporter also asked for the plan that ensures residents of the county-owned nursing home, the Sullivan County Adult Care Center in Liberty, are able to vote. According to nursing home data collected by ProPublica, 146 certified beds are at the nursing home as of September, with an average of 100 residents per day based on a daily census.

Dan Hust, director of communications for Sullivan County, said the activities office of the care center provides residents with absentee ballots so that anyone who wishes can vote. "I don’t know how many took advantage of that ability, but it was offered," Hust said in an emailed message.

Editor's note: This article has been updated several times, once to include Dan Hust's response, and again to include new information that the election commissioners were not presented with the River Reporter's question about the care center's voting plan. Hust said there is a plan, and that it will be provided to the River Reporter.


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