Curious as to What You Would Do? ***SWH

Updated on November 06, 2018
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
18 answers

So our son who is 19 can vote this year. He is mildly delayed and has schizophrenia (along with being on the Spectrum and other issues), which really affects his ability to be in "reality" with many things. We decided not to assume guardianship of him for several different reasons. This means he can vote this year. However, he literally has NO idea of a) any candidates or any issues - he knows Trump is president and that is the extent of his knowledge (and only knows this because it is a frequent topic in our home, it is very unlikely otherwise that he would even be able to tell you who is president) and b) would not understand the how to vote process at all in a booth by himself.

In a perfect world, I would have realized the voting in a booth issue and had him do an absentee ballot at home to avoid that, but I dropped the ball on that one.

So, I don't think he should vote tomorrow at all. Not only can he not figure out the process once in a booth alone, he literally would be filling in bubbles to make them "look pretty." Hubby has the idea that he should vote, and says that 1/2 of the country doesn't even know anything about the issues or candidates so that isn't a valid excuse.

I am an extremely FIRM believer in voting and so are all of my kids. Even my military kids vote via absentee ballot. I believe that as a citizen, we have a duty to vote. Except . . . well, I don't know. I think this is an exception. I really do. In the future, I will make sure to have him vote at home since we know he can't do the booth thing, but between that AND having no clue on the issues, I think he should skip it this year. Hubby thinks the opposite. Son obviously has no clue or even knows what "voting" is really so asking him is somewhat moot. He'd say yes if asked (but he'd also say yes if I asked him if he wanted to be circumcised next week - having the same knowledge base about both circumcision and voting).

So, I'm curious, what do you think? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

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So What Happened?

To those who feel that because he is delayed or uninformed, that perhaps he should never vote at all, honestly that isn't my decision to make and it would be unconstitutional for me to even consider such a thing. Our son has the same voting rights as the other folks in the world who meet these requirements: a citizen of the United States;

2. meet the residency requirements;

3. be 18 years old before any election;

4. not have been convicted of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary (or have had your civil and political rights restored);

5. not currently be declared mentally incompetent through a competency hearing;

6. swear or affirm to “support and defend the Constitution"; and

7. not have been convicted of treason or impeachment.

While I am obviously asking the question of him getting out to vote tomorrow, my concern is two fold - one being his inability to be successful at the voting poll booth, added to the fact that he is an uninformed voter. If my only concern was his being not informed, I'd also have to stop about a thousand other folks at my own voting poll from voting. Is making the bubbles look pretty any different than voting in someone because you like their tie (true story of a college educated person I know)? Even if I thought his voting was a bad idea from the standpoint of him not being informed or wanting to color in the bubbles a certain way, I would be standing in the way of his legal ability to vote if I just unilaterally decided he could never vote.

***SWH - ultimately he did not vote this election. He did mention it prior to me going to do my voting - realizing that dad was just coming from voting and I was going over to do the same, but only to ask "should I be voting, too?" since we were all doing it. I explained that I didn't do a good job of getting the paperwork together for him to vote this time, but that I would make sure to have it together next time so he could vote. Regardless of my beliefs, his dad's beliefs, or anyone else's, he has the constitutional right to vote. This was actually one of the things we struggled with when deciding whether to assume guardianship of him when he turned 18.

As an aside, as I see the results from the country roll in today, it is clear that there are just as many uninformed voters in some states as my son.

Featured Answers



answers from Portland on

If it were me - and I hadn't mentioned it to this point, and he had not brought it up - I would let it go and bring it up next time. Then I'd make it happen, if he was interested.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I guess I would have not brought up the subject and hoped he had forgotten and not realized tomorrow is voting day. I feel everyone should vote, yes, but these people are not voting in a way that makes the bubble sheet look pretty, they genuinely (even if out of ignorance) believe these are the best choices, either because they are staunch believers, they vote for party, or whatever the case may be, but they feel strongly for someone (or against someone, and vote for the other option). I think that is quite different than just bubbling in patterns and not voting from the heart.

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I have a cousin with psychiatric issues who would be totally overwhelmed by the lines and process at the polling place, and I have a mother with Alzheimer's who voted absentee (with help) in 2016 but not since. So, different specifics but same dilemma as yours - what to do?

Lots of people get help at the polls - visually impaired people, for example. You might be able to do that - accompany him to the handicapped booth (usually larger than the regular one - at least they are in my polling station) and help out. But in your case, isn't ballot assistance really going to amount to a whole lot of work for you to basically crate a second ballot of your own preferences? If your son isn't cognizant at all, how is he exercising a choice? If it were just a question of making sure he only filled in one bubble per office, help would make sense. But what is the value otherwise?

I agree with your husband that boatloads of people know nothing about candidates and issues (especially ballot questions and down-ballot offices), but they have the same right to vote as anyone else. We don't have poll or civics tests (and the courts have wisely rejected them because they were almost always used to disenfranchise blacks), and I'm not even sure that most voters (and many elected officials) could even pass the citizenship test. Still, they vote.

Does he want to vote? Or only if you ask him? Will he realize tomorrow that it's Election Day and ask for a ride? If not, is he missing out? If he asks to vote and then goes in and just colors in ovals, his ballot will be disqualified. So what, though? That happens to other people as well. (And we could say plenty of people throw their votes away, right??) If he fails to do this accurately, and short of the "hanging chad" debacle in Florida in 2000 or the unconscionable electronic vote switching allegedly going on in some states (like Texas), well, so be it. These anomalies occur in every election. But we don't flag those people and ask them to not vote.

So, if it were me, since you're not his official guardian in all capacities, and since you've empowered him to act on his own in some ways, I'd wait to see if he asks to go vote. If he does, take him. Let him do what he wants to with his ballot. Now, it's possible that the ballot-reading machine (if you have them) will reject it immediately and offer him a chance to do a new one - you'll have to cross that bridge when you come to it. But if he doesn't ask, will he realize that and feel he missed out? If not, let it go.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with you. He should vote via absentee next time.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I would say no. I think the voting age is 18 for a reason. We wouldn't let a 5 year old vote so even if someone is of age but has a "delay" as you put it, I don't think they should vote. just my opinion.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i completely agree with you.

voting from home, where you can discuss each vote with him to the degree he gets it, makes sense.

sending him into a voting booth to make an utterly uninformed decision is NOT fulfilling one's duty as a citizen.

your husband's reasoning that because we already have a lot of uninformed votes contributing to the sludge of misinformation in this country doesn't hold water with me.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

While I think everyone should vote - if he's not understanding how to fill out a ballot and needs help to make sure he's not coloring in all the bubbles on every question then I'm not seeing how he could do this independently in a booth.
Absentee vote next year - this year he should sit this one out.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I agree with you, because your son will not be making his own choices. Frankly, I don't even think he should vote absentee in the future, because although someone could help him, that would really be whomever helped him voting twice, since he doesn't have the capacity to decide for himself - being uneducated on the options is, IMO, quite different from being unable to make his own decision.

Edited to be clear: If he is choosing to vote and choosing the candidates, regardless of how informed (or uninformed) he is, if he is truly making his own choices, and simply needs help with the ballot process, then he should have the opportunity to vote, because he has the right to do so. If he is not choosing for himself - that is where I have a problem because whomever is "helping" him is actually choosing for him which means he's not really voting, the "helper" is voting twice which is not legal (your post is a little confusing on this, the original makes it sound like he is not competent, but your SWH says that he is). My other concern is his desire to vote. It is YOUR firm belief that every citizen should vote, but is it HIS belief? Does he want to vote? Your post seems to suggest no (he would say yes if asked, but doesn't know what it means so it's not something he wants to do independently), but this isn't really clear.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would skip this year, as much as it pains me to say that. and do absentee ballot next year.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

He's still pretty young, as far as voting age goes. If he skips this election year, it won't be the end of his voting.

I guess if I were you, I'd print out a ballot, or pick a sample one up (usually voting places have sample ballots in advance so people can study them in order to know what to expect), or create a practice ballot on your computer and print it out, and I'd help your son practice voting, at home, slowly at a pace with which he's comfortable. He doesn't have to know that his vote won't count this year, he may feel a sense of pride by feeling as though he voted.

That way you can assess how he does. Does he want to know the names? Or does he just want to make pretty dots on the page? Does it matter to him afterwards (does he show pride and tell everyone he voted, or does he forget about it immediately afterwards)? Does he ask questions, or does he just want to go ahead and mark the ballot without knowing what anything is?

It could be a trial run for you, in the comfort of your home, this year. Certainly his vote won't count, but it can be a learning experience for both of you. You may find that he takes real pleasure in voting and tries to do his best, or you may find that it's nothing more than a coloring or art experience for him. And that may tell you how to proceed at the next election.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Your son should vote. (Which I feel silly even typing, because it's his RIGHT!! Regardless of opinions here!!)

But I agree with some responses below that say Absentee for him would be more like you voting twice. No offense, but really.

I think that you should guide him to take a trip to the voting booth, like guiding him to brush his teeth in the bathroom.

As you know - if you don't advocate for your son, who will? And in this situation, "advocating for" his vote includes facilitating his voting experience.

We've had all kinds of people voted into office recently. Your son's vote is not going to make things worse!

ETA: Your circumcision analogy is apt. We need to get out and vote to separate the wheat from the chaff. Remove the ineffective parts of the tool.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I say skip it. I didn't start voting till I was closer to 30 because I was uninformed and would just be filling in bubbles to make things even.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If he can't figure out the ballot and will just be coloring it in as you say then how can he possibly vote at all, wouldn't his ballot be unreadable and therefore not count anyway? And if your husband wants to take a day of of work for this complete waste of time I suppose that's his business. It's not really going to affect you in any way so why worry about it?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If the law says he is eligible, no one should stand in his way if he wants to vote. However, if he doesn’t want to vote, being coerced into it is also not right as that infringes on his autonomy, which is more sacred than even the Constitution. It sounds to me like your husband wants to have two vites, which is as fraudulent as stealing someone’s SS number.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Here is a comparison to the it's OK for him to make uninformed choices because others already do that. It's OK to eat junk food because others eat junk food. I suggest that both situations affect ourselves and others.

I am thinking of the "get out and vote" campaign. Thar campaign " provides information about the person or issue that is on the ballot.

I also think about the statement that says "every vote counts." Compare that with the argument that his vote doesn't count.

I suggest that your son would not be only making uninformed choices, he would be making choices based on nothing. Typical people's choices may be uninformed as to the particular person and issue but they are made based on the voters' belief system. It sounds like your son hasn't yet developed a belief system related to political issues.

I think I would give your son a choice about voting after having a discussion about the process, and it's importance. I would ask him if he understands why he wants to vote and if he thinks he could make helpfull choices based on the issues. I would use some examples such as telling him the choice between two people running for governor, who would he choose. Then ask him if he thinks he could vote in this election.

I have a grandson who is on the spectrum with developmental delays. He is conscientious and I think that if he knew why it was important to vote and how his vote counts he would choose to not vote. He might ask for help knowing as much as he could understand about the candidates and issues. I would explain them in simple basic terms.

I suggest encouraging your son to vote would be disrespecting the importance of voting in our country. There us a difference between being uninformed and not being able to understand what one is voting for.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Let him vote. It’s the experience and the process that matters.

Many people vote and have no clue who or what they are voting for, many vote contrary to their own best interest.

Many people just vote straight party line Republican or Democratic, without knowing the issues or who is on the ballot.

Let him vote.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Perhaps he should vote. But let him do it, without supervising the actual pencil marks. Even if that means he will probably fill in all the candidates' bubbles. While his vote will not be counted, his participation will be appreciated.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Has he asked to vote? Or are you just thinking about it?
I mean...if he asks...then he has the right to go and vote. \if he doesn't ask then I wouldn't bring it up.

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