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Blocked From The Ballot: Meet Jack Vaile, Who Has Cerebral Palsy

Jack Vaile with his father Lou after voting in the 2020 presidential primaries.
Jack Vaile with his father Lou after voting in the 2020 presidential primaries.

Most Americans earn the right to vote at 18. But Jack Vaile, who has cerebral palsy, was stripped of his right to vote at 18, when his father, Lou, became his guardian and conservator under California state law.

Lou and Jack were unaware that California is one of at least ten states where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are under conservatorship or guardianship are not allowed to vote.

Thousands of people in those states automatically lose the right to vote every year. Proponents of those laws say they prevent voter fraud and manipulation. But disability advocates say many of those disenfranchised, like Jack, are capable of understanding the election and deserve a say in its outcome.

Jack uses an augmentative communication device to speak. He told us he felt “frustrated, hurt [and] angry” when he learned his voting rights had been taken away. Lou and Jack went to court in California in 2016 to have Jack’s voting rights reinstated.

Jack said he felt “relieved [and] proud” to win his voting rights back. And he’s been following this year’s presidential election closely. He told us the health care for all and racism are the issues that are informing his choice.

He also told us why it is important to him to vote.

“Choosing someone to represent me. Expressing my opinion. Using my voice. Being a part of things.”

This conversation is part of our “Blocked From The Ballot” series.We’re spotlighting different groups of people living in America (or in American territories) who are not allowed to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

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Avery Kleinman