Seniors’ advocates and their political allies are criticizing recent comments by Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde suggesting that nursing home residents can’t – or shouldn’t – vote. Hovde, who is running to unseat incumbent Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), told Fox News’ Guy Benson:::

 “We had nursing homes where you had 100 percent voting… Well, if you’re in a nursing home, you only have a five, six-month life expectancy. Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote. And you had children, adult children showing up saying, ‘Who voted for my 85 or 90-year-old father or mother?’” – GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde

These comments by the Trump-endorsed, MAGA Republican candidate drew sharp rebukes as blatantly ageist and fact-free. “Hovde said that people living in nursing homes usually die after a few months,” Senator Baldwin’s campaign responded. “Everyone deserves the freedom to vote, so they can make their voices heard in our elections. But Eric Hovde wants to take that away for seniors living in nursing homes.”

NCPSSM, which has endorsed Baldwin’ re-election bid, blasted Hovde’s comments. “Senators are supposed to represent ALL of their voters, and it is a total insult to the basic dignity of Wisconsin’s seniors to suggest that they are too old to vote,” said Luke Warren, director of the NCPSSM political action committee (PAC). “Hovde should be celebrating high voter turnout among nursing home residents, not griping about it.”

Anne Montgomery, NCPSSM’s senior health policy expert, added, “Hovde is basically suggesting that people in nursing homes are unworthy of voting, and that they are all about to die, which is not true.” Montgomery corrected several false or misleading arguments in Hovde’s comments:::

*The average life expectancy of nursing home residents is years, not months.

*There’s ZERO evidence that fraudulent ballots were cast in Wisconsin nursing homes in 2020.

*Nursing home residents, on average, are trending younger. The percentage of patients under 65 years of age in nursing homes grew from 10% in 2000 to 16% in 2017.

The Independent offered some additional fact-checking, indicating that voter participation in Wisconsin nursing homes was nowhere near “100%” in 2020, as Hovde claimed. “A review… by the Wisconsin State Journal found just one nursing home in the state had a 100% voter turnout. (It had just 12 registered voters).”  Other facilities ranged from 42-91%, the paper reported.

Hovde’s remarks are not random for a MAGA candidate; they are part of Trump’s larger (and false) narrative about the 2020 election being “rigged.” (Hovde disagrees that the election was “stolen,” but said “things happened in that election that were very troublesome.”)   Wisconsin was crucial to Joe Biden’s electoral victory in 2020, and the MAGA movement can’t abide that he won the state fairly, claiming that “thousands of crooked votes” came out of nursing homes in Wisconsin — a falsehood that has been completely discredited.

“Instead of trying to disenfranchise seniors living in nursing homes,” NCPSSM’s Anne Montgomery says, “We should be continuing to try to make it easier for nursing home residents to vote.  They are just as entitled to participate in our democratic system as everyone else.”

Montgomery points out that lawmakers over the years have tried to reduce barriers to voting access for this population, including mail balloting and accommodations for people with disabilities at polling places. Montgomery cited the Help America Vote Act of 2002 — and a series of GAO reports highlighted by then-Senator and Baldwin’s predecessor, Herb Kohl (D-WI), acknowledging efforts to facilitate voting access and calling for further improvements.

When Badger State seniors cast ballots in 2024, they will have to take stock of the two Senate candidates, MAGA Republican Eric Hovde vs. Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who NCPSSM praised as a “champion of Wisconsin seniors.” As PAC director Luke Warren says, “It takes little imagination to picture how a ‘Senator Hovde’ would treat older constituents if he were in office. He has praised plans to gut Medicare and supports cutting Social Security. These latest comments are a stark reminder of the stakes in November for Wisconsin seniors.”

Listen to our  podcast about ageism in culture and politics:  Part 1 and Part 2 with expert S. Jay Olshanksy.