Emergency medicine physicians and staff at Cook County Health are helping patients register to vote while they wait to been seen in the emergency room.  Cook County Health is among the more than 60 institutions across the U.S. participating in VotER, an online voter registration, ahead of the November election.

“It is estimated more than 50 million eligible people in the United States are not registered to vote,” said Dr. Ameera Haamid, emergency medicine physician, Cook County Health. “Our VotER program is designed to encourage our patient population and remind them voting is a civic duty that is deeply connected to their health.”

Cook County Health emergency medicine physicians are wearing lanyards with the VotER prompt, which asks “Ready to vote?”, and attached to it is a badge with a QR code.  Patients take their smartphone and scan the QR code, which takes them to TurboVote, an online tool that can guide them through the voter registration process and send them reminders about election deadlines. A helpline is also available to field any questions.

This process can be completed less than two minutes and has the added bonus of encouraging people who register to vote with optional text reminders about the address of their polling place and the time the polls are open.

Cook County Health’s emergency departments care for more than 120,000 patients each year at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital and Provident Hospital.

“Many of our patients come from communities that are underserved or affected by health disparities that use emergency departments at higher rates because of a lack of access to traditional forms of health care,” said Haamid. “These populations are directly impacted by policies that address areas such as behavioral and mental health, insurance coverage, reproductive health rights, and addiction and access to healthy foods, which are often topics of discussion during elections.”

VotER, a national, nonpartisan organization, seeks to bring voter registration to health systems by helping patients and visitors easily register to vote and sign up for a mail-in ballot. The organization also provides automated reminders so that individuals are prepared to vote. Helping patients and visitors request an absentee ballot this year will allow them to avoid exposure to COVID-19 while waiting in line at the polls.

To register to vote and/or request a mail-in ballot,  go to  https://vot-er.org/?s=cook+county, text VOTE COOK COUNTY to 34444, or scan the QR code that are also on   posters on the medical campus at Cook County Health. In Illinois, the deadline to register by mail to vote is (postmarked by) Tuesday, October 6, 2020. The deadline to register online to vote is Sunday, October 18, 2020. The deadline to register in person to vote is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Caitlin Polochak, Communications Manager