On National Voter Registration Day Tuesday, Jack Johnson posted this "Register to Vote" photo on Facebook. It garnered nearly 5,000 likes and dozens of comments, including the one above from the parent of a special needs Jack Johnson fan who just turned 18. We asked her to share her story.
My son turned 18 this year, generally seen as an age with many rites of passage for most young adults – graduation and prom, moving out on their own or going off to college, and yes, registering to vote. For my son with special needs (disabled since birth), it also included a decision to establish guardianship of his person and estate primarily for his safety and future protection. Part of the guardianship process is deciding which rights of person or estate need to be limited in order to protect them from themselves and protect them from others who may take advantage of them…one of these “rights” is the right to vote for elected officials.
As I said before, my son has had special needs since birth and some might say “Well how does he know who to vote for” or “How does he make that decision” …here is my answer… I have been taking my son with me to the voting booth all of his life, and then to the ballot drop box when I was converted over to mail-in ballots we still made it an important deal by driving to the ballot drop station and then going out for a bite to eat. A few days before each vote I will read through the voter’s pamphlets and sometimes my son will curl up and ask me what each thing is; I have a few great anecdotes from taking him to the polling stations to booth-vote that stem straight from those “pamphlet reading” sessions.
After he turned 18, one of the few things I was able to do for/with him was to help him get some of those “normal” things like his state ID (neurological impairments prohibit a driver’s license), and yes, registering to vote. We got online together and I asked him his info and typed/helped him type his registration and off it went. A month or two later we realized “Hey wait, we haven’t received any info or his voter’s card” so we went back online and completed the registration…again. About once a week he asks me when he is going to get his “very own voting paper,” he has full on opinions when he sees yard signs, political ads and even asked if he could watch the Republican debates these last few weeks, and proceeded to let his opinion about the candidates responses be known – whether fully understood or not.
Ultimately if something rings true to him and he chooses based simply on that, then that is his prerogative; will I try to influence his vote as he goes through his “very own voting paper”?…NO, I have put too much effort forth to ensure he has his rights respected and that this rite of passage is given the respect it deserves. Now, everybody, register and VOTE!
Here is the text of Andrea's original Facebook Comment:
“My son, who has special needs and I had to establish adult guardianship of earlier this year, is so excited that we registered him to vote (second submission) last week. Special needs or not all voices need to be heard so in applying for his guardianship it was critical in my mind that he retain his right to vote. He has been going with me to vote (in person and dropping off mail in ballots) all of his life and is just itching to get his first "very own voting paper". Bonus is that he LOVES Jack Johnson and wanted me to tell you that he is registered.”