Vote! It's Your Right!
Last week I encouraged the ADHD community to focus on the election, to plan a strategy for educating oneself about the issues and candidates, to register and then vote. I have been asked several questions by my ADHD colleagues which I hope to answer in this blog.
Who can vote? Originally the U.S. Constitution left it to the state to determine precisely who was qualified to vote. Expanding voting rights to Americans who had been turned away has required a constitutional amendment or changes in federal law to remove barriers to register and vote. Although the 15th Amendment (1870) ensured all races the right to vote, the 19th Amendment (1920) provided equal voting rights for women, and the 26th Amendment (1971) extended the vote to anyone eighteen years of age and over by Election Day, there is still much to do. All U.S. citizens over eighteen years of age are eligible to vote with the exception of convicted felons in many states.
Can I vote if I will not be home on November 4? Most states provide for early voting, in fact many states provide early voting at the county Department of Elections for 6 weeks prior to the elections. If you are a registered voter in your Election District but you are unable to appear at the polls to vote in person, you are eligible to vote by Absentee Ballot. Contact you Department of Elections for the process you need to go through to vote by Absentee Ballot.
If I am a student or working out of state, where should I vote? Although many students still choose to vote by absentee ballot at home, more and more students are voting in the locale where they are working or going to school. Change your registered address in your new location by calling the local Department of Elections and following their procedure or by registering on a universal registration for your new district on line at www.Vote411.org. Beware that so far in this election cycle, students were wrongly told that registering to vote where they attend school may cause them to lose scholarship money or their parents would lose the ability to declare their student as a tax deduction. Beware of advice from some political operatives who want to suppress the vote in specific populations. You can get more information about this on www.electionline.org.
Can I vote if I have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? Misdemeanor offenses do not limit the ability to vote, however a felony conviction may. Check your state's election WEB or go to www.Vote411.org to review your state's laws.
If I have no fixed residence or I'm staying in a shelter, a hospital, treatment program, may I vote? Anyone lacking a fixed residence or who is homeless and is otherwise qualified to vote may register by completing the proper registration forms and providing two pieces of identification containing his/her name; one of the pieces must include the mailing address on the application, which may be a shelter or agency. Many states require state agencies such as Social services or Medicaid to register voters. Depending on the circumstance and timing, these citizens may request an absentee ballot or cast their ballot on Election Day at the appropriate poll.
I have a disability or special needs-may I vote? The Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002 which created new national standards for how citizens register and vote and included Federal funds to help states and localities to improve election procedures. All qualified citizens desiring to vote must be given an opportunity to do so. The state must be committed to providing accessible polling places, accessible voting machines, voting by absentee ballot and provide Election Officers to assist upon the voter's arrival. Voters with special needs may bring someone with them to help in the voting process. Accommodations for voters who are deaf or blind must be provided. In addition, only a court judgment of mental incompetence can remove the right to vote not a diagnosis of known mental illness or developmental delay.
By Janet Kramer, MD, ADDA Board