It’s Election Day! Whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, it’s a day when our voices get to be heard as we vote in local and national races. Ryan and I decided to vote early today with hopes of avoiding the crowds at the polling station. So, at 7:30 a.m., right after our workout, we made our way to the Millcreek Youth Association Office to cast our ballots. Even though we had to wait, I was pleased to see the large crowd of voters.
As the voting season amped up and I read more information regarding local and national candidates, I came across intriguing information regarding voting and persons with disabilities. I recently learned that 30 states and the District of Columbia have laws in their constitutions that can limit people with mental disabilities from voting if they have been ruled mentally incompetent by a court. These court-ordered voting restrictions can apply to people judged mentally incompetent due to a range of mental disabilities including autism, Down syndrome and bipolar disorder. I’m pleased to say that Pennsylvania does not have any laws that restrict the right to vote for individuals with developmental or physical disabilities. There are only three qualifications for a person to register to vote in PA. The person must be:
- A citizen of the USA at least one month before the election
- A resident of PA in the election district for at least 30 days before the election
- 18 years of age
I can certainly understand why there would be cause for concern over the possible exploitation of voters with disabilities. However, I would suggest that if exploitation would occur, the focus should be on the people manipulating the voters rather than on taking away the right to vote. Voting is a fundamental right of all persons. In fact, persons with disabilities have the right to assistance in voting. This assistance can be provided by a poll worker, friend or family member. The only individuals who are not permitted to assist are the voter’s employer, an agent of the employer, or if the voter is a member of a union, a union officer is not permitted to assist.
So, what can a voter assistant do?
- Explain the instructions for how to cast the ballot
- Demonstrate the voting process
- Read the ballot choices or questions
- Mark the ballot upon the direction of the voter
- Verify the accuracy of the ballot reflecting the voter’s choices
What can you do if you have problems assisting?
- Call election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)
If you haven’t voted now, you have until 8 p.m. to cast your ballot. Exercise this right, and as you do, remember that there are those whose voices aren’t being heard. You can learn more about this at the Disability Voting Coalition of Pennsylvania and in this article from The Atlantic, “Keeping the ‘Mentally Incompetent’ From Voting.”
Ryan and I talked about going to vote today, the purpose of it and how fortunate we are as Americans to live in a country where we have the freedom to elect our officials. This was Ryan’s second time to vote since turning 18 years old last December. Tonight, we will tune in to watch what will be an exciting evening as the ballots are tallied and decisions are determined.