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.