The Nurse’s Last-minute Voting Guide


By Jennifer Larson, contributor

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day on November 6, some of you may have already cast your absentee ballots, or will shortly, others are planning to head to the polls, while others may be wondering if you want to go through the trouble.

“Nurses work 12-hour shifts, and they work double shifts. It’s like ‘Why should I even bother?’” said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of National Nurses United. “The real reason is because you can.”

You have the right to vote, and you should exercise it, she noted, pointing out that in the past that right wasn’t guaranteed for everyone. Additionally, nurses should vote because they are educated professionals with an understanding of the needs of patients--and their communities, Burger said.

This year, as we’re all aware, the presidency is at stake: Democrat Barack Obama, the incumbent, is squaring off against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

The two candidates have different positions on several issues, including the landmark health reform legislation known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Obama successfully championed the act, which was passed by Congress in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year. While Massachusetts passed a law during Romney’s tenure to require that people carry health insurance that has similarities to the individual mandate in the ACA, he has said that he would work to repeal at least some parts of the ACA, if elected president.

In addition to the presidency, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for grabs this year, and candidates are vying for 33 U.S. Senate seats, as well. Voters in 11 states are set to choose a governor on November 6, along with numerous other state and local positions.

Also on the ballot: many states have initiatives that involve health care, public safety, education and other issues--all of which have relevance to nurses and their families.

Most of these initiatives involve a number of details that warrant more than a brief read-over of the summary in the voting booth, so it is important to prepare yourself ahead of time. 

You might want to start with the election voting guides that you receive in the mail from your registrar of voters or can access on the registrar’s website; these provide an overview of the ballot initiatives and brief statements from many of the candidates. For more in-depth information and professional opinions, however, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

You can visit the website for the candidates you are considering and read up on their positions on various issues. Or you can turn to other sources, such as professional organizations and specialty voting sites. Here are a few examples:

  • American Nurses Association. The ANA has several resources on its website with information that is relevant to the election. The first is for the association’s Legislative Action Center, which maintains current summaries on legislation and key votes. Another option is the page for the ANA’s Nurses Campaign Activity Night.  In addition, the ANA’s Political Action Committee (ANA-PAC) has endorsed candidates in various states.
  • National League for Nursing. The NLN also has a Legislative Action Center online, where you can read more about legislation, find templates for letters to send to your elected representatives and look up information about elected officials.  You can also plug in your own address into the Election Guide and find out about the candidates who are vying for your vote for president, Congress and your state legislature.
  • National Nurses United. The NNU has posted a list of its official endorsements on its website under the category Election 2012.
  • League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters is spreading the word about its vote411 website, where you can enter your address for personalized voting information, such as important races, information about the presidential candidates’ positions on a variety of issues, upcoming candidate debates and voting alerts. Or visit the League’s Educating Voters page.
  • Project Vote Smart. Volunteer-based organization Project Vote Smart operates a large database with information on candidates, elections, and legislation that you can search. You can look up key 2012 national votes or search for legislation by subject, so you can, for example, look at the various health care ballot measures that are up for a vote in November.
  • Long Distance Voter. This website contains information on absentee ballot deadlines in all 50 states.

Like the NNU and ANA-PAC, a number of organizations release official endorsements of various candidates (national and state) and take positions on ballot measures and referendums. These sorts of resources may help you decide how to vote if you find that your interests are closely aligned with a particular organization.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act, visit

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