Opinion/Solutions: Health professionals helping get out the vote


In Minnesota, doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are helping provide a pathway to the polls there through an initiative to increase voter registration.

At the MyHealth for Teens and Young Adults clinic, patients learn how to take care of their health and their community. Director Connie Robertson shared materials they use to talk to youth about voting.

“This kind of walks through ‘What is my voting residence?’,” she explained, pointing to a fact sheet for college students. “And if you have to vote early with an absentee ballot, how do you go about doing that?”

A QR code on the sheet connects students to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, which shares additional information about registering to vote and polling locations.

Posters in exam rooms and throughout the clinic also provide quick access to information through a QR code.

The clinic provides medical care and mental health care for youth, regardless of their insurance status. Their mission is to reduce barriers to care and, in this case, voting as well.

“We see a lot of young adults that feel helpless, they struggle with depression, anxiety, they don’t feel like they have control over their lives and this is a way to give them some control, give them some power,” said Robertson. “We definitely in no way lead people down a path where they have to vote one way or another- that is their choice. We just give them the resources and the tools so they can make informed decisions on their values and beliefs.”

Their materials evolved from a program MyHealth participated in last year called Vot-ER, which is a national initiative to increase voter participation.

An emergency room physician started a pilot program at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2019, after he saw a correlation between areas of low voter turnout and worse health outcomes. Vot-ER has now grown to reach more than 500 hospitals, centers and clinics nationwide.

The nonpartisan organization provides badges and other materials to healthcare professionals, which can be used to help patients register to vote.

“There’s a QR code on the back and you just scan that and it brings you to the Vot-ER website, which ties you into whichever state you’re in” explained Dr. Sakina Naqvi, a pulmonary and critical care physician for M Health Fairview.

The Vot-ER website connects patients with information about what’s on their ballot, polling place location and how to register to vote.

Dr. Naqvi explained she speaks to patients about their voter registration status as they go through a series of health maintenance questions, including immunization and housing status.

Vot-ER has helped more than 66,000 people register or sign up for mail-in ballots since 2020 nationwide, according to a spokesperson.

Robertson sees a clear health benefit of voting among the patients they treat at the MyHealth clinic.

“They all of a sudden have a sense of I can make a difference, my thoughts, my voice matters,” she said.

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