January 2 2013
We previously commented here on the case of Darlene Pearson, a resident of a facility for the mentally disabled in North Carolina, who told her stunned father that she had voted for Barack Obama for president—and then asked, “President of what?”
Ms. Pearson’s story appeared in the Carolina Journal, which reported on a number of campaigns to register people in North Carolina homes for the mentally ill or developmentally disabled. Ms. Pearson’s father was angry that his daughter was used in this way.
So were the facilities so embarrassed that they decided to be more careful not to register mentally incapacitated people in the future? Not a bit. The Carolina Journal has a follow-up story:
The director of state facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled said his department will continue to offer annual voter registration and voting assistance for patients and residents. He also said that while efforts are made to notify patients’ guardians about voting activities, a patient’s right to vote takes priority over any objections from guardians. …
The laws and rules governing voting by mentally challenged individuals remain murky, and it’s unclear whether state employees who assisted disabled patients and residents to cast ballots at early voting sites were complying with the law.
The registration drives were conducted for the Nov. 6 election even though federal law requires facilities to determine whether patients and residents want to register and want to vote at the time they’re admitted. The state stepped up its registration efforts this fall after a request to increase voter turnout at state-run facilities from Disability Rights North Carolina, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of the mentally and developmentally disabled.
Of course, it is not the patient who exercises any kind of right in these cases. Somebody else uses the patient to commit what should simply be called voter fraud. Taking advantage of patients in this way is scandalous.
I don’t know anything about Disability Rights North Carolina or the people who took Ms. Pearson to vote—but I am willing to bet that she wouldn’t have “voted” for Mitt Romney, even if she had asked to.
I do notice from the Disability Rights North Carolina website that the group supports deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, a policy that makes it virtually impossible to place people such as Adam Lanza in places where they will not hurt themselves or others.