VCU Health to Launch Voter-Registration Drive on Hospital Premises

Image from a VotER voter registration kit.

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Commonwealth University Health System has informed employees that it will participate in the VotER Initiative to encourage patients to register to vote and vote by mail.

“A large body of research tells us that sick Americans are less likely to vote,” commences the communication from Sheryl L. Garland, chief of health impact for the health system. “This is especially true of individuals who also have significant social needs, such as a lack of stable food and housing. All to often, these voices are not heard when decisions that affect their health are made.”

The email explicitly tied the initiative, which will start today, to VCU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion: “VCU Health’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement states that ‘we will actively work to dismantle systemic racism and inequalities that may be entrenched in our health system.’ VCU Health’s participation in this initiative is a small but meaningful step toward fulfilling this commitment.”

According to the communique, VCU will place flyers in clinic waiting rooms and larger posters in high-traffic areas within the hospitals. 

Garland explains how the initiative will work:

Patients can register to vote and request their mail ballot by texting “VOTE VCU” to 34444 or by scanning the QR code with their phone’s camera. We will provide clinics with handouts of this information in case patients have difficulty with the technology or would prefer to take the information home with them. We intend to place the posters in the environment next week, beginning on September 14th. We will remove the posters by October 23rd, the last day to request a mail ballot.

Our goal is to help patients register to vote and receive a mail ballot while ensuring that this effort is as unintrusive as possible to your clinical and administrative workflows. While your teams may wish to inform patients about the poster or proactively share handouts, there is no expectation to do so.

She closed with a “reminder” that VCU Health’s participation “is not intended to reflect support for or opposition to any candidate or political party. Under no circumstance should any VCU Health employees tell patients who to vote for  or which party to support.”

Bacon’s bottom line: VotER depicts itself as a non-partisan organization. And to be sure, VotER and VCU alike are careful not to endorse individual candidates or political parties. But there can be no doubt about the ideological aims of its “Healthy Democracy” initiative.

As the VotER website says, “VotER is built on a few core beliefs about healthcare, community and democracy.” Under the heading of Social Determinants of Health, it says, “We believe that empowered voices in communities leads to positive health outcomes.” The emphasis on “social determinants of health” is a leftist trope that attributes the variability of health outcomes by race and socioeconomic status to environmental factors and argues that the way to reduce disparities is to spend more public money on addressing those determinants.

Says Elizabeth Datner, an ER physician quoted on the VotER website: “We’re trying to bring resources to patients, both medical and non-medical, so that we can help our communities be healthier.”

Clearly, VCU Health is approaching this initiative with this mindset. The give-away is the explicit connection with the university’s diversity and inclusion statement, itself a leftist-inspired document.

The practical effect of the VotER initiative at VCU will be to register more low-income minorities to vote. Low-income minorities are disproportionately likely to vote for Democratic Party candidates supporting expansion of public healthcare spending initiatives…. paid for by taxpayers.

Let me be 100% clear: There is nothing wrong with registering low-income minority voters. If VotER or the MCV Foundation want to raise their own money and use private resources on voter-registration drives in poor minority communities, then by all means do so. It is a very different thing for VCU Health, a publicly owned healthcare institution that receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, to devote public resources to this effort.

If VCU wanted to help community health, it could start by devoting some of its $200 million profit (2018 fiscal year for the VCU Medical Center alone) on programs that actually improve peoples’ health, such as, oh, I don’t know, conducting more health care screenings in poor neighborhoods, or educating poor people on how to take charge of their health, or stocking neighborhood stores with healthier foods, or underwriting community gardens, or sponsoring exercise programs for people suffering from obesity, or diabetes, or heart disease…

But, no, VCU is instead expending public resources on registering people to vote and send in mail-in ballots. And it is making the tie-in to inherently political matters such as food and housing policy.

I can vote, too, with my checkbook. And as long as VCU pursues ideologically driven yet self-serving initiatives like this, I refuse to donate a single nickel to any VCU-related cause. And if other Virginians are tired of community organizations inserting themselves into the political arena, they should make the same commitment.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


19 responses to “VCU Health to Launch Voter-Registration Drive on Hospital Premises”

  1. After having spent 10 years at VCU as a professor, my overwhelming sense is that nothing done in VCU’s interaction with outsiders is “non partisan”. Avoiding candidate endorsements is just a fig leaf. I challenge anyone to find public praise of a student, faculty or staff member who has both served the community in a significant way and is not an advocate for far left causes. VCU is by far the most anti American institution in Virginia (however, the presidents of almost all other Virginia universities are racing to catch up, with Washington & Lee now teaching students to overthrow governments). Non leftist tax payers should be demanding funding decreases for higher education in the Commonwealth until the universities cease being reeducation camps.

  2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “The give-away is the explicit connection with the university’s diversity and inclusion statement, itself a leftist-inspired document.”

    This get out the vote drive by a public institution is rotten to the core for obvious reasons as Jim explains.

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Gee, where were they in 2010, one of the few elections I missed because I found myself in cardiac ICU that day after a whirlwind rush to surgery. This is not the hospital’s mission, whatever funds they are using for this purpose will be diverted from what is the hospital’s mission, but I actually doubt it will move the needle on registrations or participation. But virtue signaling is all you need these days….

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Did they find one? Given your political bend and all, did they give you one?

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    Hospitals down our way sponsor farmers markets, free clinics, sign-ups for health insurance, and other low-income entitlement benefits.

    If not mistaken, some churches host voter registration also.

    On the dem/low-income idea – isn’t the idea of representative government for each party to do what is in the best interests of their constituents?

    I think Conservatives/GOP have to do more than “what the hell do you have to lose” argument.

    If low income people want health insurance – what is the GOP willing to do to help them? They seem to have no problem helping the rich or giving subsidized insurance for floods or subsidizing health insurance for employers… The GOP has to step up and do more than lecture about the GOP’s “values” to voters. They need to represent them.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Yes, Larry, if you are low income the hospital will knock itself out to get you signed up for Medicaid. No self-interest on its part at all!

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        sorta like getting seniors signed up for Medicare? 😉

  5. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    One, registering to vote should be easy and available in as many state and local government facilities, and hospitals, post offices, FedEx stores, banks, i.e., trusted service locations, as possible.

    You should register at least every two to three years to keep your signature up to date. Unless you are weird, your signature varies in time, often sufficiently enough to fail a first round signature verification on a mail-in ballot.

    Two, see one.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Woah. Not supposed to encourage people in all this pandemic mess? Shame on you Bacon and the rest of your enablers and Trump’s!

  7. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    There is a lot of hand-wringing here over using “public resources” to register folks. First of all, the amount of public resources used is likely minuscule. Secondly, public resources are frequently used to register people. For example, the application for a driver’s license provides an opportunity for someone to register. Colleges and universities routinely allow their facilities to be used for voter registration.

    Jim dismisses the attribution of the “variability of health outcomes by race and socioeconomic status to environmental factors” as a “liberal trope.” What other factors would conservatives attribute these variabilities to?

    Posters and commenters on this blog should be careful about always associating diversity and inclusion with liberals. Someone might get the idea that conservatives are opposed to diversity and inclusion.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Registering more voters is almost always a mortal threat to Conservatives unless, of course, the evangelical churches are….


  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “Posters and commenters on this blog should be careful about always associating diversity and inclusion with liberals. Someone might get the idea that conservatives are opposed to diversity and inclusion.”

    Now, there is one to laugh out loud about. Elite universities are among the most exclusionary organizations on the planet. As is Black Lives Matter. Recall there White Lives don’t matter. Nor do Blue Lives. The liberals have all the diversity of a 18th century Apache tribe.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Then it is a good thing that VCU is trying to encourage those liberals to be more diverse.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        AND – they also sign up Conservatives and even faux Libertarians!

        win-win-win !!

  9. Meanwhile, a newsletter to members of the VCU community is highlighting this event, “Social Justice in Politics: Get Out the Vote in 2020.”

    The description: The VCU School of Social Work’s C. Bernard Scotch Fund presents a virtual event to discuss the importance of getting out the vote for Decision 2020. Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lewis joins us from the Congressional Research Institute of Social Work and Policy to discuss how students, faculty, administrators and individuals in a higher education setting and beyond can support voter advocacy and work against systems of voter suppression.

    This event is in conjunction with the 2020 VCU Common Book – One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      You know. If Conservatives who oppose voter registration, at the same time, supported and promoted other ways to register voters – it might come across “better” – but the typical response walks and talks like supporting voter suppression on the sly.

  10. I don’t really see a problem with this – but let me know if they start requiring people to register as democrats in order to receive medical attention.

  11. The national news media has so completely compromised their integrity that we no longer trust them.

    “Gallup study: Media rank dead last in public trust”

    Health experts and health institutions like VCU seem determined to follow in their footsteps. The hyperventilating and misrepresentations about Hydrocortisone being a prime example. The result will be the same. Then they’ll wonder why we no longer trust them.

    Peter Jackson, assistant professor at VCU, would have us believe that were it not for President Trump, college football would be doing just fine right now. The evidence for such an accusation?

    “And instead of telling us to wear masks, he told us to drink bleach.”

    Even far left PolitiFact ain’t totally buying that one.

    “No, Trump didn’t tell Americans infected with the coronavirus to drink bleach”

    If President Obama had made similar comments, under similar circumstances, I have zero doubt that it would have been a total non-event. If anyone questioned his remarks, the news media and health experts would have noted that “disinfection” is pretty much what antibodies do for an “infected” person. That’s why we need a vaccine.

    There’s been much criticism whenever someone challenges a “scientist.” As far as I am concerned, they’ve brought that on themselves when they became political. I trust the science, but am now wary of anyone who proclaims himself to be a scientist, and therefore infallible. Many have shown themselves to be political hacks. That’s a true shame.

Leave a Reply