Questions come up over disabled voters

October 29, 2008 11:58:34 PM PDT
Wednesday night the California Republican Party asked some questions about possible voting abuses. Those questions centered on the votes of 10 developmentally disabled adults in the Sierra foothills.

The director of their day program took them to register to vote, then helped those with reading or comprehension difficulties mark their ballots. The director insists his actions were perfectly legal, but the GOP and the father of at least one of those voters wonders, is it ethical?

"Would you mind talking to me about who you voted for?" asked an ABC reporter.
"The black man," said Michael Rascon, a mentally disabled voter.

Michael Rascon voted in his first presidential election. He and nine other developmentally disabled clients at the Thumbs Up adult care home in Tuolumne County recently cast their absentee ballots. All but one voted for Barak Obama.

"Did someone help you vote?" asked the ABC reporter.
"Dave did," said Michael.

David Simerley is the home's director. He admits to helping any client with his ballot who asked.

"No one's vote should be coerced, I think that's the bottom line," said Chuck Bell, the State's GOP Attorney.

The state Republican Party now questions the validity of the Thumbs Up votes. They want the Secretary of State to investigate.

"If they haven't been declared incompetent to vote and they're a citizen of the United States and they're over 18 and they're a legal resident, they're entitled to vote," said Professor Pamela Karlan, from Stanford University School of Law.

Karlan says legally, someone like Director Simerley can fill out a ballot for his clients, if they're illiterate or incapable. Freedom of speech even gives Simerley the right to share his political opinions.

"We try to be totally non-partisan. We didn't tell people how to vote, we told people how to vote," said David Simerley.

Regardless, Michael Rascon's father thinks his son was manipulated.

"He wouldn't know one candidate from another," said Sam Rascon, Michael's father.

"There's no requirement that a voter be well informed on the issues or have a sophisticated understanding of economics, or the like, to vote," said Karlan.

"I don't know the issues, but I do not think I would be upset if a care giver took my daughter who was of age and had a legal right to vote - to vote," said Doug Turner.

Turner's daughter has Down syndrome and he expects her to vote one day. Unless a court found she was incompetent, he has no idea why she wouldn't.

"I think we should teach our children to vote and take part in the democratic process," said Turner.

As for those nine votes, even the Republicans think the chances of the state stepping in to retract them are slim.


Load Comments