First off, a hat tip to Michelle Malkin for pointing me to this news report about a mentally challenged man hauled off to the polls in Georgia to vote against the ticket he intended to vote for, as reported by WALB. Read to the end of this blog entry to learn of my own experience with a much more local flavor.
As Michelle Malkin writes in her own article, many families of the cognitively impaired feel a kinship toward Sarah Palin to the point that they favor the McCain ticket over the Obama ticket. It is completely understandable that this Georgia man wanted to cast a vote for McCain. Instead, he was compelled to vote for Obama by the worker who had abruptly taken him to the polls during an early voting period. The rest of the man’s family is fuming.
As you already know, the U.S. Constitution allows citizens who are at least 18 years of age to vote. The Constitution does not require that a person’s mental competence be measured to determine voting eligibility. That is as it should be. I have a younger brother who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was a toddler. His traumatic brain injury impaired him both mentally and physically. He may not be the most sophisticated voter, but he does form his own impressions about the candidates, and he does feel that voting is important. He’s ordinarily accompanied to the polls by a family member, and may need assistance if he’s unfamiliar with a new voting method or voting machine. If he were denied the right to vote, his sense of being ostracized from the rest of society would be heightened beyond what it already is.
During my first campaign for state representative in 2002, I wore out a lot of shoe leather. I really didn’t have much campaign funding to speak of, so I used walk lists of registered voters obtained from the Lorain County Board of Elections and trudged from door-to-door to meet voters to deliver my campaign message in person.
While thus engaged in canvassing residences in Elyria Township, I happened upon an address that turned out to be a rather large building. The walk list indicated that a somewhat large number of voters resided within. I knocked on the door, and someone came to the door to greet me. I began to tell her of my campaign, but she cut me off, informing me she was not a resident of the building. She said that she was merely a staff worker there. I told her that I wanted to meet the voters who resided there. She denied my request, saying that the residents of the building were profoundly retarded, thus it would be inappropriate to allow me to enter. My attempts to enter and meet the residents, even by scheduling an appointment, were futile. I moved on.
But I have some questions:
- Would the incumbent state representative, Joe Koziura, been allowed to visit the premises by virtue of his position as an officeholder? I can’t picture the staff telling Joe Koziura to take a hike.
- What was the harm in paying a visit, when I had ample evidence to prove my identity and show that I posed no safety risk, even though the residents might have no understanding of politics?
- Can they be too profoundly impaired to meet candidates yet be not too impaired to be taken to a polling booth to cast votes for candidates?
- If they are taken to a polling place by a staff member so that they can vote, what informs their vote, if access to the candidates has been denied?
For that final question, I suggest that the WALB report from Albany, Georgia, provides the answer. The staff members seize upon these special needs individuals and use them as tools for stuffing the ballot box in favor of the candidate preferred by staff members.
One final note about the staff members at the Elyria Township facility mentioned above: The staff members are unionized.