Voting is a fundamental right that is protected by US and Pennsylvania law. In Pennsylvania, according to Votes.PA, these laws:
• protect voters from discrimination,
• protect voters from being told how to vote or intimidated in any way,
• require election information in Spanish in some counties,
• ensure that people with a disability can vote independently and privately, and
• establish rights for people who in jail or who have been convicted of a crime.
At MHAPA we care about your right to vote.
Voting is not only a civic duty, but it is a chance, as citizens, to ensure that those in charge of passing legislation do so with their constituents needs in mind. By raising our collective voice about the importance of mental health protections, insurance, funding, and education, we strive to ensure that equitable policies that improve how individuals with mental disabilities are treated. Voting is one key way to raise our collective voice.
Here are a few recent legislative updates which help show why our elections are so important:
House Legislative Update
The House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up 30 bills this month. Several of these are important to the mental health community, including bills on parity compliance and designation of the 988 number. Any of the bills that pass committee must then go to the full House for a vote and pass the Senate or get included in a package bill that is otherwise agreed to by both Houses.
New Nonprofit Law
Earlier this month, the House passed S. 4209, the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act, and the President has signed it. The bill will fix the DOL guidance requiring self-insured nonprofits to pay 100 percent of the costs of unemployment compensation and get reimbursed 50 percent at some later date. This legislation allows them to only pay 50% of the costs and not have to get reimbursed. It is not a complete solution to the problem of unemployment benefits costs, but it is a step in the right direction.
42 CFR Part 2
MHA staff participated in a conference call with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, to discuss a new 42 CFR Part 2Regulation released by SAMHSA this week. The regulation makes it easier for healthcare providers to share substance use history with consent from individuals being cared for while keeping in place safeguards for information privacy. MHA applauds this regulation and looks ahead to the release of an additional rule established by Section 3221 of the CARES Act that passed in March 2020, which is expected to be released before the March 2021 deadline – 12 months after enactment.
Who can vote in Pennsylvania:
To register to vote in the state of Pennsylvania, you must be:
- A United States citizen for at least one month
- A resident of Pennsylvania and your election district for at least 30 days
- At least 18 years old on Election Day
Misdemeanants and pretrial detainees are permitted to register regardless of their incarceration status. Felons are not permitted to vote if they are incarcerated on the date of the next election. Misdemeanants and pretrial detainees may vote by absentee ballot as long as they meet all other voting criteria.
For more information, the PA State Department created a guide on the Voting Rights of Convicted Felons, Convicted Misdemeanants and Pretrial Detainees.
How to Register to Vote in Pennsylvania:
You must register to vote your residence address, where you live. Owning property or a business in a county does not make you a resident of that county. You must register to vote at least 15 days prior to an election to vote in that election. For the 2020 General Election, the deadline to register to vote is October 19. However, if you plan to register and vote by mail-in ballot, you should give yourself additional time.
You have 4 ways to register to vote. You can register:
- by mail
- in person at your county voter registration office
- at PennDOT and some other government agencies.
As we get closer to election day, we will provide details about how voting is changing in response to COVID-19, how to view the new congressional district boundaries to learn about the candidates you can vote for, and more.