- People 55 or older in certain U.S. cities can fill out a form asking for a free ride to the polls on Election Day from a local funeral home.
- The project is a partnership between the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association and the National Urban League and is operating in Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Miami.
- Participating funeral homes will be using their non-hearse fleet vehicles—often SUVs or luxury passenger vans—to transport riders to the polls, and they will be practicing safety measures to guard against coronavirus transmission.
In an election, turnout is everything. And though many states have expanded early and absentee voting for the 2020 election in response to the ongoing pandemic, in some places turning out to vote still means showing up at the appointed place on the appointed day. Which can be hard, particularly for older voters without access to a car. Enter your local funeral director.
The National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association (NFDMA) and the National Urban League are partnering to provide free limo rides to the polls for voters over the age of 55 in Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Miami. The Baltimore Sun reported that in the 2008 and 2012 elections, the funeral homes transported upward of 300,000 people to vote. For this year's election, interested voters can fill out a request form where they can specify whether they’d like to ride in a limousine, SUV, or passenger van. For better or for worse, "hearse" was not listed among the available modes of conveyance.
The specter of the coronavirus adds a layer of irony to the idea of funeral directors shuttling groups of senior citizens to and fro, but worry not. This year, drivers will only be transporting single riders or groups from the same household and will be sanitizing the vehicles between passengers. Drivers will also have sanitized folding chairs on hand to offer to riders who may have to wait in long lines at their polling place.
Some Detroit funeral homes had planned to participate in the project this year, but a court ruling may stop them. Republicans in the Michigan State Legislature recently mounted a successful bid to reinstate a ban on third-party organizations paying drivers to take voters to the polls. A district court ruling had recently stopped enforcement on the ban, which originates from an 1895 state election law. ACLU representatives say that volunteers can still transport voters to the polls in Michigan, but organizations cannot spend money to advertise the free rides or reimburse drivers for their time or fuel costs.
It's not just funeral homes, either; Nashville limo service Judah Elite is also offering rides to the polls for early voting this week and on Election Day as it has done for the past decade, saying it doesn't want to leave anyone without an excuse as to why they didn't vote.