Disabled And Disenfranchised: Families Fight To Restore Voting Rights


Publish Date:
October 31, 2016
  • Shoshana Walter
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Jack Vaile was about to turn 18 years old. He liked painting, “American Ninja Warrior,” growing his beard. He liked his pierced ears. He liked to sleep late. Like most teenagers, he didn’t think much about politics.

That changed when his high school government teacher in Oakland, California, gave his class an assignment: research the presidential candidates and decide whom you want to support. After a brief curiosity about Chris Christie, Vaile threw his full support behind Bernie Sanders. He looked forward to his birthday in January, when he registered to vote. He bought a Bernie sticker, Bernie buttons and two Bernie figurines, attended volunteer meetings, campaigned at a Bernie rally and told anyone who would listen – including his doctor – who should get their vote.

Those who support such laws say they prevent voter manipulation and fraud. But advocates say they are built on flawed assumptions about the abilities of disabled people, dating back centuries. By the late 19th century [link to Rabia Belt Dissertation], most states barred people who were “idiots, insane, of unsound mind, or under guardianship” from voting. In some states, those laws are still on the books.

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