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Experts Push Competency Test For Voters Suffering Dementia

 
 
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 04:28 am
There are lots of elderly folks, especially in Florida, who suffer from some form of senile dementia. And they are voting. Many live in nursing homes, and fill out absentee ballots, with assistance from relatives, or from the home's staff. Which brings up the question as to whether these people should be voting at all, and is the "assistance" that they are getting really just another duplicate vote cast by the assistant.

Quote:
CLEARWATER - Before Carol Ross of Clearwater escorted her 86-year-old mother to a voting machine last year, a poll worker asked whether her mother was capable of voting.
Ross could not answer the question. ``I said, `We're going to find out right now, aren't we?' ''

``My mother wanted to vote,'' Ross said. ``We talked about voting before we got to the polls. But at the voting booth she said, `I don't know what to do. You do it.'

``So I didn't let her vote, and I wouldn't do it for her.''

Ross said her mother lives in a Dunedin nursing home and has senile dementia, possibly Alzheimer's disease. The degenerative brain disorder affects an estimated 455,000 Florida residents, and tens of thousands of them vote, many with state-approved assistance from family or nursing home workers.

However, Florida does not have a law that requires voters to be capable of voting or even be able to understand the nature of voting.

In 2000, the state's ballot controversies inspired scores of jokes poking fun at Florida's elderly population, including residents with dementia.

The controversy also sparked comprehensive research into the ethical, legal and social issues raised by the fact that people with dementia were voting.


Do you think that people with dementia should undergo competency tests before being allowed to vote? Sheould they be allowed to complete absentee ballots, often being "helped" by a relative or nursing hime workers?

Would having competency tests start a slippery slope that might ultimately deprive other people the right to vote? If people with dementia had to pass competency tests, what about people with low IQs?

How do you think that Florida, (and other states) should deal with this?


http://news.tbo.com/news/MGBMP66C6ZD.html
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,733 • Replies: 27
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Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:24 am
In a perfect world, I think people physically unable to complete an absentee ballot or cast a ballot at the polls should be able to request assistance. I would have no problem with designated officials going to these people and completing a ballot as instructed by the handicapped person. The official should be able to interview the person with no one else there 'prompting or coaching' the person. If the person is unable to independently communicate his/her preference, no vote should be cast.

Unless it is in a private organization, I am adamently opposed to anyone being able to vote by proxy and those completing absentee ballots should be able to sign their own name under penalty of perjury and/or racketeering if they sign any name other than their own.
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Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:28 am
Here in New Mexico there has been a public discussion re voter I.D. In the face of at least perceived rampant election fraud, many of us believe it appropriate for a person to show I.D. when they cast their vote. The outnumbered Republicans strongly favor voter I.D. The Democrats are largely opposing it on the pretext that this would somehow disenfranchise the voters. To me, that is just plain nuts.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:42 am
One of the things that comes to mind is this: There are many very large nursing homes in Florida. The home could become a voting precinct, with an election worker from both parties present. If the person could not vote on their own, they would be disqualified.

If a person were physically incapable of using a voting machine, an absentee ballot would be offered. The person would then vote, under the watchful eye of the two voting officials. In that way, people who suffered from mental frailties would not be open to "suggestions" for voting, either by home workers or family.
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revel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:51 am
To me it just don't smell right and it singles out old people to be treated with a lack of dignity. What's next, are we going to start singling out people who have some types of mental illness like depression and saying that they can't vote either?

In my honest opinion, it seems that folks such as the authors of this idea are turing our country into some kind of country that is not a true democracy in the true sense of the word like the framers intended.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:54 am
back in the day (late 60's-early 70's) there was a movement to enable mentally handicapped persons to vote, I kinda remember this as being the result of JFK urging legal rights for the developmentally disabled. Anyway the bleeding heart liberals were pushing this issue very strongly in Colorado and the conservatives were against it but as it turned out, this population (at least in colorado) turned out in massive support for Nixon. The tables had turned as it were and then the conservatives for for it and the liberals against it. So it goes.
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woiyo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:54 am
Interesting subject.

I would tend to agree that anyone with such a disorder should not be allowed to vote. Although how that could be accomplished is another issue.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 06:59 am
revel- Have you ever been around people who are past the early stages of dementia? Many have little conception of what is going on, and some are totally incapable of making a rational decision about a candidate.

What then happens is that the person votes for the candidate that is "suggested" either by a relative, or a home worker, which is tantamount to that "helper" enjoying a double dip in the election. In the case of a nursing home, the worker theoretically could "persuade" many residents to vote the helper's candidate.
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revel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 07:04 am
Phoenix32890 wrote:
revel- Have you ever been around people who are past the early stages of dementia? Many have little conception of what is going on, and some are totally incapable of making a rational decision about a candidate.

What then happens is that the person votes for the candidate that is "suggested" either by a relative, or a home worker, which is tantamount to that "helper" enjoying a double dip in the election. In the case of a nursing home, the worker theoretically could "persuade" many residents to vote the helper's candidate.


In the abstract you are right. However, this leads to all kinds problems. Who would be in charge of deciding who really has "dementia" or just has a few memory problems? How could we trust those in charge of such an outfit would not have a political agenda themselves and just don't want certain folks to vote?
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 07:12 am
If an eligible voter is able to communicate his/her preferences without prompting, he/she should be able to vote with or without assistance. Those who need assistance should be able to request it, but the assistance should be only from people designated and authorized by law to provide it. Otherwise, the disabled, the senile, the aged, etc. are subject to be exploited by opportunists and there is simply no dignity in that.
0 Replies
 
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 07:14 am
revel- I think that Foxfyre has a simple, but realistic solution!

I think that this problem is one that needs to be worked out.....soon. The baby boomers are aging, and in a few years there may be a huge group of people who will be cognitvely incapable of making voting decisions.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 08:30 am
Phoenix32890 wrote:
revel- Have you ever been around people who are past the early stages of dementia? Many have little conception of what is going on, and some are totally incapable of making a rational decision about a candidate.

That describes the vast majority of registered voters in the US.

If we mandated competency tests for everyone, I estimate that about 80% of the eligible voters would be barred from the polling places.

And that, in my opinion, would be a good thing.
0 Replies
 
rodeman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 08:35 am
Phoenix32890 wrote:
revel- Have you ever been around people who are past the early stages of dementia? Many have little conception of what is going on, and some are totally incapable of making a rational decision about a candidate.

Phoenix:

Damned if that don't describe a republican...........?

kidding......(kinda)
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 08:36 am
Competency tests for everyone!

I tell you, I actually really like that idea. They would be tested on complex issues, for example. Then they'd have to *pay attention to* the issues. Who knows what would happen then!

Interesting problem, Phoenix.

I think it's not so simple as whether they are able to express a preference -- I think something would need to indicate WHY they are expressing the preference. (They could say "Bush" because they recognize the name of the first president Bush -- or "not Bush" for the same reason.)
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Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 08:48 am
But nobody else has to indicate why they are voting for somebody. If the person is sufficiently cognizant to be able to request assistance and can express his/her preference, that should be sufficient.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 09:04 am
I dunno. A 4-year-old can request assistance and express his/ her preference -- should we let preschoolers vote?

I think there has to be a mental competency line somewhere, I'm just not sure where to locate it or how to enforce it.
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 09:11 am
I like the idea of competency tests, too.

I'd also say that electoral college votes should be lost if part of the population can't vote. Seems to me, electoral college votes should be based on the number of voters in the previous election... not just population. (Why wasn't *I* one of the "framers?")
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 09:22 am
Traditionally at least, newspapers were written at an 8th grade reading level so I do not think the standards are very high to begin with.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 09:26 am
Eighth grade test in 1895:

http://people.morehead-st.edu/fs/w.willis/eighthgrade.html
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revel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2004 10:30 am
Foxfyre wrote:
If an eligible voter is able to communicate his/her preferences without prompting, he/she should be able to vote with or without assistance. Those who need assistance should be able to request it, but the assistance should be only from people designated and authorized by law to provide it. Otherwise, the disabled, the senile, the aged, etc. are subject to be exploited by opportunists and there is simply no dignity in that.


Isn't that it is done now? If it is then I don't understand the original problem but if it is not, then I agree you hit upon the perfect solution. I just don't people aught to be denied the right to vote if they express a desire to vote and are not in a mental hospital or otherwise restrained for mental reasons. (don't know how to word what I am saying)

It is not just elderly folks, there are all kinds of people that need assistance in all kinds of situations similar. For example a handicaped person who wants to vote but does not understand how to do it even if it is explained to them, should they be denied the right to vote? I have a mentally retarded cousin who likes to particiapte in the voting process, should she be denied the right to vote because her intelligence is not that great? I mean this is a dangerous road and way of thinking in my opinion.
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