Saturday, November 3, 2018

Autism Votes

I originally posted this on November 8, 2011, which was election day.  I repost it with some edits and updates.

My autistic brother in law, who will turn 60 shortly, has made up his mind he will not vote in November.  Two years ago it was a different story.  He voted in the New York presidential primary in April.  He made his mind up from watching the TV news shows he watched.

Not only that, he voted for President, and voted the opposite of how his mother (who he relied on so emotionally and physically at the time) intended to vote.  It led to some interesting comments from my mother in law, who wasn't seeming to like the fact that he wasn't just following along with whatever she said.

In a way, it is amazing that he never voted until 2004.  And now, he won't even tell us what changed his mind.  We don't press him, as he has a right to his private thoughts.  I wonder, though, if the intensity of this election cycle has overwhelmed him, in addition to the fact that his mother is terminally ill.

I repeat this post in honor of my brother in law.  And please, if you are in the United States, vote on November 6.  Please.  This may be one of the most important elections in our country's history.

From November of 2011 - Autism Votes

A Facebook post by a Facebook friend of mine, a woman who has an adult son on the autistic spectrum, inspired this post.

The day I first posted this was election day in the United States, where I live.

Her son voted for the first time that day. Although she is his legal guardian, her son retains his right to vote.  She told her Facebook friends that her son has looked forward to exercising his vote for years.  This was a big day for him.

It's also a big day for our country for another reason.

Her son is on the leading edge of a wave of soon to be adults with autism.  Some say 1 in 100 live births in this country result in an individual with autism.  Not too long ago it was 1 in 166. Then it was 1 in 150.  (Update, in 2018 it appears it may be as high as 1 in 59, according to the Center for Disease Control).  Let's step back a moment and see what that means.

Those babies are going to grow up.  In fact, the "leading edge" of the autism epidemic I just mentioned are now legal adults in many states, including New York (age of 18).  Just wait until all those adults with autism, who have been given the tools and supports to vote, start to exercise that right. 

Growing up, my brother in law was never encouraged to vote nor were people like him ever expected to vote.  This just didn't happen.  The belief was that they weren't "normal".  So their voices, and opinions, were unheard.

In 2004, a person who worked with him in a support role decided that my brother in law should exercise his right to vote.  He watches a news station that carries a lot of political discussions and has formed very definite political opinions.  Why shouldn't he vote?  She worked with him, he did vote, and he was very proud of voting for the presidential candidate of his choice.

For the first time, his voice was heard.

It is not easy for a person with autism to vote, as described here, but it can be done with proper education and proper support.  This issue isn't restricted to the United States, either.

It will be interesting to hear what these new adults with autism have to say in the voting booth.

I hope that many of them, unlike my brother in law, don't decide to sit this one out.


  1. I know several people on the autism spectrum who have definite views that are quite intelligent on politics. Good for your brother-in-law. It's every citizen's right to vote and they should exercise it.

  2. Well, I guess you'll have to respect your BIL's decision to not vote! But, since voting is a way to express one's choice, I would like to know how many of those on the autism spectrum actually do vote! Having your voice heard can be immensely powerful for anyone!

  3. My first research project in law school had to do with voting rights of the mentally disabled. Just as I was to pitch my paper to law journal, the laws in our state were changed and everything I'd argued (for their rights) became moot. I'm happy to say that they won the right to vote, and my paper went into the circular file. I probably should have kept it, just for the writing, but I was happy to not have to argue the point with anyone. I wish your BIL would exercise his right, but I suppose with every right comes the right to abstain from exercising it, as well.

  4. I totally agree with you about voting. I think it is the fundamental duty and responsibility of every citizen to vote. That is the cornerstone of democracy. I don't miss a single vote that I'm eligible to vote for and take my grandkids too in the hope that they remember this important civic duty. Good luck to all of you for tomorrow

  5. If they understand the issues, why can't they vote? And there's always absentee ballots if for whatever reason voting in person is an issue. And voting early. So, it's totally doable. I wonder why your BIL won't be voting this time. I hope he changes his mind.


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