Supporting Voting Rights for All

Conversations with Katie | May 04, 2021

LeadingAge members will convene in Atlanta this fall as “ambassadors of conscience,” writes President & CEO Katie Smith Sloan.

The right to vote is critical to the experience of being an American. LeadingAge has long supported efforts to remove barriers to voting for older adults, who are uniquely susceptible to common causes of disenfranchisement—from restrictions in the use of absentee ballots to limiting access to polling locations.

Each election cycle, LeadingAge and its members work hard to ensure that older adults—particularly those who live in residential care communities or are unable to get to the polls—can cast their ballots. We share strategies to enable residents to vote. Member organizations serve as voting precincts. We work collaboratively with Boards of Elections to facilitate voting for those we serve. Last fall, for example, we created a number of resources to address the specific challenges associated with voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later this year, LeadingAge is convening our membership in Atlanta, in a state currently at the center of the voting restriction issue. As is required for an event as large as ours, the location and venue were selected years in advance. But we cannot overlook the current situation as we prepare for our time in Georgia.

Voting is a fundamental right that doesn’t expire with age. We oppose actions or efforts to restrict that right. Regardless of race, economic status, political affiliation, ability, or age, we all should be able to make our voices heard as part of the democratic process.

LeadingAge will work with colleagues and other stakeholders to identify opportunities to enhance our national efforts to support voter rights for the older adults we serve and those who work in our member organizations. We look forward to sharing those activities as they take shape.

The legislative actions taken in Georgia are expected to disenfranchise many voters, including people of color. In keeping with our commitment to support racial justice, equity, and inclusion, we are steadfast in our efforts to build an equitable and inclusive aging services community in which our staff, leadership, and the people we serve reflect the rich diversity of the U.S., and opportunities exist for all to thrive. A fundamental element of an equitable and inclusive community is the right to vote.

The 2021 Annual Meeting agenda features a robust diversity, equity, and inclusion track of educational sessions; keynote speeches addressing race, faith, and courage; and a range of engagement opportunities designed to spark learning and discussion among aging services providers. During our meeting on October 24-27, LeadingAge also will convene colleagues for several events at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and will collaborate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities on opportunities to introduce promising students and alumni to careers in aging services.

We firmly support creating opportunities for all in our field, including the people of color who make up a significant portion of the aging services workforce. We believe the economic infusion we bring to Atlanta will support the city and benefit the local workforce.

In addition, our efforts to strengthen the aging services workforce extend far beyond our short time in Georgia. LeadingAge has initiatives in place to create career opportunities that will result in greater diversity in leadership roles. We are advocating for livable wages for the direct care professionals in our field. And we are deepening our understanding of issues associated with diversity, equity, and inclusion through education and knowledge sharing.

After a uniquely difficult year of losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest, our members are coming together this fall as “ambassadors of conscience” to strengthen our sector. The collective power of LeadingAge members is made greater through sharing, learning, and collaboration—and together we are building the momentum to make America a better, more equitable place to grow old.