I Witnessed Something at the Polls That Made Me Sick

I’m about to do something I’ve never done before on my little blog. I’m going to rant. Big time. About politics and voting. May not even proofread. Will probably use a lot of expletives so now might be the time to click off this page if you don’t want to read a profanity-laced diatribe about what happened when I went to the polls today.

Also, this post is very long.

As I approached the precinct where I vote, I noticed a young adult woman with Down syndrome and her mother entering the building. Standing outside the building was an old man, dressed in denim overalls next to a woman who I presume is a member of some fundamentalist cult because she was wearing a long denim skirt and had that hair…you know the kind. The hairdo that Warren Jeff’s wives wear. As the young woman with Down syndrome walked through the precinct doors, the man said to his wife, “They’re not gonna let that retard vote, are they?”

I was disgusted and sickened. I wanted to slap the man but I was afraid his wife might have a rattlesnake in her purse – you know, for church services later today. Instead, I just said, “Well, they let you vote, you idiot,” and went inside. I didn’t bother with the “R” word issue because you can’t reason with stupid. I’ve been investigating voting rights for people with special needs all afternoon and will share what I’ve learned in a minute…first, I have to rant.

Clearly, this election cycle has us all riled up. I’m sick and tired of scrolling through Facebook and seeing posts about it. Facebook is not a legitimate source of news, people! And no one asked for your opinion to show up in what is supposed to be a social arena. I wouldn’t walk up to you at a party and ask you about your politics or religion and I don’t want you to shove yours in my face when I’m trying to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning. I have “unfollowed” so many people the past few months because frankly, I can’t stomach the ignorance.

It seems to me that the people who have the most vitriolic opinions on social media are usually horribly uninformed, blithely dogmatic and almost always, they are the people who do nothing. Nothing.

Instead of spouting off your philosophy on social media, why don’t you go make a peanut butter sandwich at Manna House or come over to Merrimack Hall and volunteer with people who could use your help? You’re unhappy with politics? Then get involved at the local level or volunteer with your candidate’s campaign. You’re dissatisfied with the school system? Then sign up for the PTA or better yet, ask teachers what you can do to HELP. Shut your mouth unless you’ve taken some action.

I got angry on Sunday when a person who I am real life friends with took to Facebook and publicly shamed people for attending the Trump rally that was held here. Like, she actually said she was ashamed of her friends who went to the rally. I personally know 6 families who took their kids to the Trump rally and to the Rubio rally held the previous day, just so their teens could experience the political process. Four of those families are actually Democrats.

And for the record, I can find something shameful and/or frightening in all of the candidates on both sides of the aisle. Don’t shame people for being part of the political process. Mind your own damn business and get the hell off the internet.

I got even more angry when a friend who lives up north, in a state that is not part of Super Tuesday, shared a post today that said, “To my friends in the South…please enter the voting booth thoughtfully today.” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? I enter the voting booth thoughtfully every time I vote. Was that some sort of veiled insult directed at ignorant Southerners who can’t be trusted to use good sense when we vote?

So, I was already boiling about politics when that pathetic old man made that offensive comment. I came home and got on the phone. I surveyed parents of people with intellectual disabilities. I talked to five different people in my county’s voter registration department. I researched some things online. I even got to speak with my county’s Probate Judge and with an attorney in the office of the Alabama Secretary of State to get clarity on voter rights for people with disabilities.

See what I did? I experienced something upsetting. I researched the situation. I asked questions of officials. And I’m writing my opinion in a blog. I DID something instead of writing a Facebook post. It’s not that hard, people. 

Here’s what I’ve learned so far. A person with special needs can register to vote at the age of 18, just like everyone else. Anyone who receives Medicaid benefits is frequently offered the opportunity to register because the federal government carefully monitors access to voter registration made available to Medicaid recipients. Once someone is a registered voter, they remain a registered voter unless and until they are ruled mentally incompetent by a court of law. My county’s Probate Judge said the best way for people with disabilities – intellectual or physical – to vote is to request an absentee ballot. Anyone with a disability can ask for help at the polls and can receive help from a precinct staffer or from a person of their choosing, as long as that person is not their employer. And there is no physical or intellectual threshold a voter must reach before being granted the right to vote.

If there were an intellectual bottom-line, I’d wager that a huge portion of “normal” people are just too damn stupid to be allowed that privilege. 

In the morning session of our day program for adults with special needs we took an informal poll and found that one-third of them voted. These adults may have a low IQ but they take the responsibility of voting seriously. They discuss current events and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them are better informed on issues than I am.

My bottom line is…I trust people with special needs to make good decisions fifty times more than I trust politicians or idiots on Facebook.

If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you should register your child to vote as soon as they turn 18, if you believe they are competent enough to participate in the process. If you didn’t register them at 18, download the voter registration form and submit it. One of the parents I called said, “I’m not sure it would be fair for my child to vote. She would just vote for whoever I tell her to vote for.” So, let’s think about that a minute.

I have an opinion about who to vote for that is influenced by my husband and his opinion is influenced by mine. My opinions were definitely shaped and informed by my parents just as I have informed the opinions of my children. We do not make voting decisions in a vacuum and I see nothing wrong with a parent assisting and guiding the voting decisions of their adult child with special needs.

The last time I voted, there was an old man who appeared to be 117 and obviously had no idea where he was or what he was doing. His son had no problem ushering him into the polling precinct and filling out the old man’s ballot. No one would ever speak up and say that perhaps Grandpa is too old to vote but they will say that someone with an intellectual disability shouldn’t? I call “bullshit” on that!

Special Needs Votes Matter – let’s start a movement and get them registered!

p.s. Instead of sharing your opinion directly onto social media, you can go to wordpress.com and start a blog like this one. This would prevent the rest of us from being subjected to your vile opinions unless we wanted to know them. Otherwise, I’d love to see pictures of your grand baby or your vacation.


43 thoughts on “I Witnessed Something at the Polls That Made Me Sick

  1. I read your blog with a lot of interest, and must say that you gave me a new perspective. I have been working at a boring place today, and we had one young man come
    In with severe mental
    And physical disabilities. His mother signed his name, took his ballot, and completed it for him. I felt that the severity of his disability should have prevented him
    From voting, but I smiled and gave them a ballot. Was I wrong in my thinking? Who knows. I do know I kept my mouth shut and allowed the democratic process to proceed. I love the way you put your argument, and to a huge degree I agree with you, but I wonder, where do we find the perfect balance?

    • We don’t. We are human and “perfect” anything doesn’t exist. I doubt balance even does. You did well, thank you for volunteering.

    • As a fellow writer, I believe you made some excellent points, but your message was lost in your anger. You would have been better off writing this piece and then giving yourself 24 hours to cool off and reconsider the characterization of your fellow man. The profanity didn’t bother me, but you acquiesced the common good with your broad brush strokes of the couple making the demeaning comment. Also, you took a solid hack at our First Amendment Rights with your statements regarding Facebook. If it hadn’t been for a share of your post on Facebook, I never would have seen it. Censorship of words is a very slippery slope and I would never suggest that any form of communication be subject to another person’s values. That being said, you are well within your right to rant, but you’ll certainly catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And, in the process… Truly draw people to fight alongside you in your very worthwhile battle. Those with a limited voice need someone to speak loudly… And to chose their words wisely in such a public forum.

      • I disagree. I think this post is so effective because of the energy of the anger. Very well said

      • Thank you for your advice. As I said in the first sentence, I have never used my blog to rant in such a way or to discuss politics. I’m glad I didn’t cool off before writing it or I would have talked myself out of saying what had been on my mind for a while. Yes, you found my blog through Facebook – someone shared a link to my blog and you chose to click on that link and read my words. That’s different to me than folks who post in their status things like, “If you are voting for Hillary, you are a moron,” or “I’m ashamed that I know people who went to a Trump rally.” The only way to avoid seeing such things is to unfriend or unfollow folks. I’d prefer to be offered the CHOICE to read someone’s opinion rather than have it shoved in my face, uninvited.

  2. The Rubio and “Trump Rally” this weekend was a part of history in the making! Hell yes, I want my children to be involved! They need to see and experience things so that one day when they do vote, they will be know what they are voting for! Most people went into the polls today not knowing any of the delegates. Debra, I am with you, I call bullshit!

  3. While I agree that using the word “retard,” is offensive, I also find your characterization of what you THINK are these people’s religious beliefs just as narrow minded and offensive as anything that he said. There is nothing wrong with having Down’s Syndrome, but there is also nothing wrong with wearing overalls. Overalls or a hairstyle are not indicative of IQ level. You blatant ignorance is astounding in the face of the point that you’re trying to make. All you proved to me was that you’re no better that the man you took the time to ridicule in your blog. Don’t judge books by their covers. The only thing that you know about those people is that they lack understanding of mentally challenged people. What I know about you from this blog is that I hope I never read another one of your foul mouth blogs again.

    • I couldn’t agree more. She’s making fun of someone as well. What makes this ignorant lady any better. This rant is nauseating and has literally zero substance. The poor lady in the skirt did nothing wrong, however you lowered yourself to his standards whenever you said what you did. Since when dies what you wear to the polls have anything to do with voting, just as someone with special needs has absolutely nothing to do with voting. You’re rant is beyond ridiculous. You and the man are both ignorant in my opinion.

    • I was disappointed over this as well. Absolutely, he was wrong for saying such a mean thing. But, his wife didnt say it. She didn’t deserve to be ridiculed for her hair style and clothing…and the snake comment….terrible.

  4. Well said Debra,.
    We just attended a seminar on voting, rights and responsibilities at a group called People First of SHELBY County. There are many branches of this group, including a state chapter.
    Believe me, the participants WERE interested, and asked many questions.
    By the way, EACH polling place is required to have an Automark machine, and must be accessible.
    Our special needs population certainly ARE affected by the political process and the decisions made about services available to them.

  5. Well said Debra! I do love reading you blog, and believe everyone has a right to vote. Keep fighting for what is good and right.

  6. I have a problem with someone registering their child to vote. I am all for people with disabilities voting but they need to register themselves or be helped to do so. I am not even sure it is legal to register another person. And your attitude toward someone because of their possible religious affiliation speaks volumes. As to the FB comments, honey, there’s a FB link on your site and YOU ended up on MY page uninvited. Don’t go around complaining about what other people post.

    • Yes, my post ended up in your newsfeed without invitation but you had a choice – you could click the link and read my opinion or you could scroll on. I did not post my opinion directly, only the link to my blog, which in my opinion is an appropriate forum for sharing opinions.

  7. Wow! You’ve been busy today Debra! I’m surprised when people make remarks like you heard. What did the man expect to happen?? Did he really expect someone to jump in and physically prevent the girl from voting? If so, why didn’t he do it himself?? I shudder to think what you would have done if he had.
    Anyways, thanks for the research. I was actually wondering about that today.

  8. I took our 22-year old special needs son to vote today. Some looked at us funny but I did not give a flying flip. We sat down with our ballots and I explained who each of the candidates were and let him pick. Next time I will bring photos with me to make it easier on him.

  9. wow. you are so judgemental. so you see a woman in a skirt and long hair (which is stated in the bible as a woman’s glory, by the way) and automatically assume that she is part of a cult?? and better than that, a polygamist cult with rattlesnakes in her purse? what you said may have had a great message had you not brought yourself down to the same exact level. you are also judgemental and putting others down. in your statements you have also acted as though you are better than others. it’s a shame that you ruined this great message. you have greatly contradicted this entire post and wasted your time. last time reading this blog.

  10. Hi Debra. Thank you so much for all you do for our kids. We love you and appreciate you! Maria and I voted today after our school got out at noon. We also had a mock election at her school (where I tutor) to let the kids, several of whom have special needs, learn about how our government works and to let them know that it is a blessing that we have free elections in this country. Maria has been voting since she turned 18. She took the time this past week to learn about the issues and to look at a sample ballot so that she would be able to fill out her own ballot by herself by looking at it through her magnifier.

  11. Thank you Debra! We appreciate you so much! Maria and I voted today after her school got out at noon. She spent some time last week looking at a sample ballot to get prepared to vote today and took her magnifier with her to that she could see the small print.

    Thank you for all you do for our kids!

  12. Thank you (as always) for speaking up. I swear, God keeps these people from me because jail time does not appeal to me.

  13. The writer did not redicule, or state her personal evaluation of the IQ of the person wearing the overalls or the women with long hair perversion. The two obliviously heckled a registered adult, fulfilling his/her right to vote. As a writer, she only described the hecklers chosen attire. Intelligent minds can take it from there. I am thankful for people of her caliber… to see and recognize the ability, not the disability of her beloved students at MMH.

  14. The writer did not redicule, or state her personal evaluation of the IQ of the person wearing the overalls or the women with long hair perversion. The two obliviously heckled a registered adult, fulfilling his/her right to vote. As a writer, she only described the hecklers chosen attire. Intelligent minds can take it from there. I am thankful for people of her caliber… to see and recognize the ability, not the disability of her beloved students at MMH.
    Take time to volunteer w these guys, you would be amazed at those you call the R word. The majority are beyond my level of intelligence, & I am supposedly “normal”…like a dryer cycle, which isn’t saying much…

  15. I agree that the event with the heckler is upsetting. But someone saying to enter the booth thoughtfully ruffles your feathers and you accuse them of insulting you? Reading Facebook posts upsets you enough that you tell people to get off Facebook and start yet another blog? Hmm. Good on you for being involved, but you might wanna step back and reevaluate some of that anger.

  16. Wow. Just wow. There is never an excuse EVER to call anyone a “retard”. Special needs children/adults make this world a much better place. Their choices count in our country/cities/county’s just like anyone else’s.

    BUT, I would be ashamed beyond words of one of my children (whom are all middle school age and younger) would have ever addressed someone’s appearance as you just did. That was low. Just as low as the “retard” comment. The “cult” line- completely unnecessary.

    You shot yourself in the foot my dear. My grandmother taught me long ago that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Yes, I saw this from a “share” on Facebook. No, I’m not sharing it myself. I would be too afraid YOUR words would hurt someone and I want no association with it. Even for my friends with special needs children and families, I wouldn’t want them to think I commended your actions after the statements you have made.

    Shame on you 😦

  17. Ironically, I found this post when one of my friends reposted it on Facebook. This was brilliant and thoughtful, and I loved reading every word of it. I’ve never met you or read your blog before, but you have restored my wavering faith in the compassion and kindness of human beings. I desperately needed that today. Thank you.

  18. I’ve never read your blog before but a friend of mine posted this on FB. I will, from now on be a loyal follower of your blog. Everything you said was spot on. And thank you for standing up and voicing your opinion on this very important subject. You said what needed to be said instead of just fuming about and taking no action. The people that have posted negative comments here are, I’m quite sure “those kind of people” that would rather just sit and be angry but do nothing. I salute you for taking a stand and look forward to reading your blog in the future.

  19. Exceptional post. Both of my kids have special needs and I definitely think their voices matter; especially when we are in the midst of voting/electing people who are (supposedly) going to be representing their best interests at the local, state or national level.

  20. Reblogged this on kateschannel and commented:
    Excellent post about the voice people with special needs should have a right to have in any election. After all, those elected are representing their interests as well as ours.

  21. I am ashamed, what is wrong with this generation. I grew up with no locks on the doors, now I walk out loaded, safe in house. A disibalty does not warrant ridiacule, or to denie a person, soul, there rights. I fought for those rights. AND WILL AGAIN.

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