There are a few specific populations in the U.S. who have no right to vote. For instance, in many states, felons cannot vote. But what many people don’t realize is that many disabled adults, like some with cerebral palsy, are blocked from voting due to state laws. One persistent 18-year-old with cerebral palsy, and his father, successfully had his right to vote reinstated in California.
18-Year-Old with Cerebral Palsy Lost the Right to Vote
Jack Vaile is a young man living with severe cerebral palsy. He cannot walk or care for himself. His father, Lou Vaile, has been caring for him for his whole life.
When Jack turned 18, his parents decided to file for guardianship. This would allow them to continue providing their son with the care he needs.
Leading up to his 18th birthday, Jack got into the political process, did his research, and was excited to vote in the 2016 presidential primary. Unfortunately, Lou, when he received the conservatorship paperwork realized that Jack’s right to vote had been taken away.
The paperwork claimed that Jack was unable to communicate he desire to participate in the voting process. Lou said that the lawyer who helped them with the process did not inform him that this would happen.
Lou and Jack were able to restore his right to vote by working with Disability Rights California. The advocacy group helped Lou find an attorney, who also has cerebral palsy, to help him get Jack’s right back. They were able to go to court to restore that right to vote.
Why Disabled Citizens Can’t Always Vote
The main reason that some states have laws in place to block certain people from voting is fraud. Proponents of these laws say that there could be voter fraud if individuals under the conservatorship of another adult were allowed to cast a ballot. In other words, they could be taken advantage of to submit fraudulent votes.
Critics of these laws state that just because an individual is disabled, does not mean they don’t understand their rights. It does not mean they cannot rightfully vote and be a part of the political process like other citizens. These laws that block their votes, they say, unfairly limits their rights as citizens.
Fighting for the Right to Vote
Thousands of people every year lose the right to vote due to so-called mental incompetence. Too often this includes someone like Jack, an individual with cerebral palsy or other disability that limits their rights. In many cases the disabled adults are capable of voting, but laws block that right.
In California, the law used to be that anyone who could not fill out the voter registration form was blocked from voting. That limited many competent people from exercising their rights. A civil rights complaint led to a new law in that state. It now only requires that the conservative, someone like Jack, state that they want to retain their right to vote.
While Jack’s story ended well, and states like California have made positive changes, many people with disabilities still can’t vote. It will take parents, individuals, and advocates to make these changes and assure all adults competent to vote can exercise that right.