Today was a very proud day for the Mast family. We got up a little early so we could go to the polls as a family and vote .This was Rachel’s first time to vote in an election. Well, besides school which she pointed out to the poll workers. That did help her have an understanding of the voting machine.
Jonathan and I both wanted to be there to experience this moment. We both grew up in families that put a strong emphasis on the importance of voting and exercising the right, privilege and honor of having the freedom to vote. Freedom that was paid for by many men and women’s lives. The freedom for Rachel to vote has also been a result of dogged advocacy of marginalized populations who came before us.
Women were only granted the right to vote when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920. That was a little over 100 years ago. Even after the 19th amendment was passed, women of color were often turned away from the polls. I remember hearing women in the small community I grew up in talking about their husbands telling them how they were to vote! Rachel and I are most grateful to the people who advocated for our right to vote!
Still, right here in this United States of America, there are individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities who aren’t allowed to vote. Some are declared incapacitated while others need help in the form of what would might refer to as supports or accommodations if we had an IEP for voting. My husband Jonathan said to me this morning, “I woke with a sick feeling. What if one of the polls workers won’t let her vote or someone causes a scene?” I admitted that the thought crossed my mind. I told him that I knew the election commissioner and if that happened, we would call him on the spot.
There was no need for that though. It is a local election with few contested races so there were very few people there. The poll workers welcomed Rachel with big smiles and grins. They were patient with her. The few other voters who were there looked happy to see an 18-year old-young woman going to vote before school. We reviewed the ballot with Rachel this morning and explained to the best of our ability. One of the workers very patiently walked her through each step. Mom and dad took pictures. She had a question for one of the workers. They stepped over and explained. She finished, took her election card and handed it to the right person. She was proud to get her sticker so she could wear it at school all day. The poll worker even let us snap a picture with her.
Today is a great day. Rachel exercised her right to vote. Did you?