There still is time to register to vote in November's...

There still is time to register to vote in November's elections. Credit: John Roca

There’s no question that our political system and relentless news cycle have our blood boiling. But as a Registered Nurse and Nassau County poll worker, I have a remedy:

Vote.

This year, a new health metric was added to the document that guides the health of our nation, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We now know that civic participation can lead to better health. The evidence is clear: Civic participation — such as community gardens, formal or informal groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, PTA or book clubs, and neighborhood associations — has been shown to increase members' networks of relationships and decrease social isolation. You can start with registering and voting in your community and at the local, state, and federal levels.

Voter participation is associated with better self-reported health, according to a study of 44 countries including the United States published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine and Health. A Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health study found that individuals who did not vote reported poorer health in subsequent years.

But every year, millions of Americans find themselves unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, don’t update their registration, or aren’t sure how to register. This is especially true this year, as voting laws and districts have changed. As many as 1 in 4 eligible Americans are not registered to vote in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And registered voters declined nationally, from 53.4% in 2018 to 52.2% in 2022, according to the Current Population Survey and Census Bureau.

This past week, our country observed National Voter Registration Day. Created more than a decade ago, this is a nationwide nonpartisan rallying point to promote voter registration and help eligible voters across the country get ready to participate in our democracy. Since 2012, more than 5 million citizens have registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day, including a record-breaking 1.5 million in 2020 alone. This year's total was expected to exceed the 400,000 who registered in 2022.

But if you missed that opportunity, do not worry. There still is time to register to vote in November's elections. The deadline in New York is Oct. 28. Take the time to check whether you are registered. New York has a free service to check your information and polling place: https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/.

Based on my experience over the last five years as an election worker, I can assure you that checking now is much better than trying to register beyond the stated deadlines and guidelines. By verifying your status now, you’ll still have time to register and be eligible. Otherwise, you may have to navigate a more cumbersome paper process to have your vote counted.

To be sure, our current political state can create high-pressure conditions, and there are many forms that civic engagement can take. All of these can help improve your health and your communities.

But this prescription for health is one that you can fill right from your phone. You'll be doing something for your health and the health of your neighbors, like taking your blood pressure on a regular basis. Check your voting status, register if you're not already, and plan to go and take the time to vote. It’s a prescription for a healthier America.

This guest essay reflects the views of Elizabeth Cohn, RN, vice president for health equity research at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

This guest essay reflects the views of Elizabeth Cohn, RN, vice president for health equity research at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

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