Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Disenfranchised disabled voters, strokes, and aphasia

I voted early. I have always voted on Election Day since I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan when I was 18 years old. 

That was the 1980 election. I could not stomach another four years of Jimmy Carter's inept presidency and "malaise."  

I wanted to vote early this year for several reasons. I voted for myself for another term on the Board of the College of Western Idaho. I am unopposed. Tough race!

My second reason is to support the CWI Bond Election. It will be a tough race because state law requires a 2/3rd vote. Despite the compelling need, the reactionary anti-tax voters will be voting against us. I voted early to change my luck!

Third? Well. Our horrifying presidential candidates. At the voting booth, I thought I would get a vision about who is the best of the worst candidates in our history. No vision came to me. I voted begrudgingly and held my nose.

The early voting at my county was crowded. The handy cardboard temporary voting booths did the job.  I did my civic duty. Ada County Elections staff are so knowledgeable. Though crowded, the process was a breeze because of the staff.  

However, four years ago, it was different. Why? November of 2012 was the first election since my stroke. I voted for myself again. And, I knew who to vote for. I have a long history of being engaged politically. I “knew” the people. Nevertheless, because of my strokes, I could NOT “READ” the names on the ballots.   

You see, I have aphasia.  The difficulties of people with aphasia can range from occasional trouble finding words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write; INTELLIGENCE, HOWEVER, IS UNAFFECTED.

My aphasia is pretty mild, and reading a ballot is easy for me. NOW.

I was listening to an NPR broadcast today dealing with people who have disabilities. My aphasia is an invisible disability.  How can people with aphasia read a ballot? They completely understand the issues and candidates. If they fill out a ballot using the standard 2# pencil with oval shapes, who can help them?

The NPR commentator was focused on disenfranchised disabled people. It is often difficult for disabled people to get to a polling place. Think about it. The convenient cardboard temporary voting booths are not “convenient” when you need a wheelchair or a walker. Long lines are especially hard when you are disabled.

Not to mention transportation to get to a polling place. Are there accommodations like vans or busses? In rural areas, it is even tougher to exercise right to vote. 

Even if you have the opportunity to get to an accessible place, what if you cannot read the ballot because of aphasia?

This morning when I was listening to the NPR report about voting and disenfranchised disabled people, was going to an Aphasia Support Group. We talked about voting, aphasia, and disenfranchised people. 

Absentee ballots are wonderful. There is no pressure to hurry. They can read the ballot slowly. They can use a device which “Reads” the ballot aloud. There are more options than before.

Ada County does many things. According to Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane, "We do a number of different things for disabled voters. As you would imagine it depends on the disability. The most significant of which is our Touch Writer. It is a device made available to voters who would not otherwise be able to mark a  ballot independently. It's a machine that will assist voters in making their marks by using a controller, touchscreen, puff and sip, or other accessible attachment. So for instance a blind voter can use the machine to have the ballot read to them and then using the controller they can make their selections and a marked ballot is printed out for them at the end. Each voters experience and need is a little different, but we try to accommodate everyone as best we can."  

I took my responsibility to vote for granted.  Until I could not.

1 comment:

Rebecca Dutton said...

A lot of Americans have given their lives so I can vote.