Difficult access of the elderly to voting: the “unthinkable” of a “social exclusion”

Paris (AFP) – “It’s too complicated!”: For many voters weakened by age, whether living at home or in a nursing home, voting for the presidential election without support seems out of reach, but society is struggling to mobilize to help them, sorry associations.

“I have always voted. But since I have been in a retirement home, I do not even know where I am registered,” sighs Marie-Thérèse Schverer, 94, who is in a wheelchair and lives in a nursing home in Saint-Pierre, Alsace. the countryside.

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In this small establishment with 48 residents, the management in each room handed out a written document to commemorate the dates of the vote. “If you need help, information or encounter other difficulties, you can ask your relatives or the reception at your company,” the short letter clarifies.

The local gendarmerie has planned to travel to establish any proxies on the spot, and on election day, a facilitator from the establishment will accompany residents who so wish, to the entrance to the ballot box, explains the director, Rebel Abi-Kenaan.

“Voting is in the private sphere, but our role is also to help residents access it if they want to,” he analyzes. After all, for many seniors, it is “not a very simple course,” the director admits.

– “Bourgeois stable” –

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In 2017, only 8.7% of voters aged 70-74 abstained from voting in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, but this proportion reached 30.3% of those over 80, according to INSEE: figures reflecting a “civic dropout rate after 80 years “, analyzes Jean -Philippe Viriot Durandal, sociologist at the University of Metz.

This phenomenon may be related to the loss of autonomy of the affected seniors, but also more generally to “a feeling among the elderly of now being strangers to the world around them”, emphasizes this specialist in issues related to aging and citizenship.

At all ages, of course, everyone is free to abstain, the academic states, but “the problem is when the lack of participation in the vote is not a choice, but rather a feeling of incompetence”.

“It is not only from the political class that these older abstinences feel distant, but from society as a whole,” he said. This reflects “the culmination of a form of social exclusion”, which nevertheless remains an “ignorance” and “a non-topic of public debate”, the sociologist laments.

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– “Vote for me!” –

Convinced of the need to “act to give a voice back to isolated elderly people,” the Saint-Vincent de Paul Society, a charitable association, has just launched a poster campaign in which anonymous seniors proclaim “vote for me!” : it is about encouraging the French to suggest to their “parents, grandparents, neighbors or simple acquaintances” to create a power of attorney for them.

“In the countryside, there are some elderly people who do not have a car and can not move. We can offer them to follow to the polling station,” emphasizes Michel Lanternier, chairman of the association, for whom “there is a real democratic issue here.

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For the AD-PA association, which brings together directors of old people’s homes and home help structures, one of the solutions could be to grant vulnerable elderly people specific hours of help to follow up on election day. Or to install polling stations in nursing homes, rather than in schools. Meanwhile, “as usual, the state discards itself against professionals who are not many enough, and on families,” notes Pascal Champvert, president of the association.

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However, the elderly, who “remain citizens until the end of their lives”, do not have all their families with them, notes Claudette Brialix, from the organization of families of elderly people Fnapaef. “Families who come to pick up the elder to take them to the polls are not that common,” she said. And sometimes the kids are even abstinent, “so why should they worry that their parents would vote?”.

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