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Doctored Get-Out-the-Vote campaign

By M.D. Kittle

Wisconsin Spotlight | Nov. 2, 2022

MADISON — Wisconsin health care systems are now getting into the business of getting out the vote, pushing their “equity” agenda further to encourage “Patients most marginalized in our health system, young, low-income, patients of color” to get to the polls.

The so-called Vot-ER  campaign, like the city of Milwaukee’s questionable GOTV drive, appears to be legal, but is it ethical? While the initiative bills itself as “non-partisan,” it is extensively aimed at traditional Democrat voters. And the campaign raises an important question: Should health care providers be involved in elections?

UW Health, the not-for-profit integrated health care system of the taxpayer-funded University of Wisconsin-Madison, clearly believes the answer is yes. And political engagement in the name of “healing our broken health system one vote at a time” should begin as early as possible, according to the leaders of the GOTV campaign.

“We encourage all pediatricians to broaden their definition of advocacy to include facilitating patients’ and families’ political engagement,” notes an August Powerpoint presentation to UW Health department staff. The documents, obtained by Empower Wisconsin and conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna, draw from a piece titled, “Building Political Capital: Engaging Families in Child Health Policies” from the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Vot-ER materials include “practice conversation starters,” scripts to encourage voting.

Woke Vote

UW-Health is among more than 500 health care providers “helping their patients vote as a partner of Vot-ER,” according to the materials. Other Wisconsin partners include, Gundersen Health, Ascension Health-Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association.

Vot-ER bills itself as a nonprofit civic organization “working to integrate civic engagement into healthcare.” Vot-ER develops “nonpartisan civic engagement tools and programs for every corner of the healthcare system—from private practitioners to medical schools to hospitals.”

It was founded by Dr. Alister Martin, a practicing ER physician and former Chief Resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was named White House Fellow for 2021-22, placed at the office of Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden’s Office of Public Engagement.

In 2019, he founded Vot-ER, with a team of healthcare providers and behavioral science experts “to help patients vote like their health depends on it.”

“Voting is arguably the most important aspect of political determinants [of health],” the Vot-ER materials insist, quoting  Daniel Dawes, professor and Director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Moorehouse School of Medicine. Dawes is a vehement defender of Obamacare and a leading proponent of “health equity” pushed by liberal politicians like Wisconsin’s Gov. Tony Evers.

“Helping patients vote is one concrete action institutions can and should engage in to advocate for their patients and address upstream social and racial inequities,” the materials assert.

In June, the American Medical Association formally recognized voting as a “social determinant of health.”

Now, UW-Madison health departments from Pediatrics to Obstetrics and Gynegology are in the business of “community empowerment and civic engagement.” Staff are told to provide information on election dates, promote voting, even help patients register to vote.

They apparently see 18 year-old patients as prime targets. According to the presentation, the goal is to provide patients “the opportunity to register and/or learn about registering during a healthcare visit while they wait.” It’s supposed to be non-partisan, non-interruptive and completely optional.

So health care ‘professionals’, while working with patients, are using their doctor-patient relationship to get out the vote.

“Our Touchless offering includes a set of posters designed to excite patients about registering to vote,” the Vot-ER literature states.

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