SHOULD ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS VOTE?

A 90-year-old former reading teacher with Alzheimer’s disease has no recent memory, so she forgets whatever has been said to her. Is it ethical for persons sent by her family to ask her to mark a voting ballot?
—Joshua Grossman, MD, Johnson City, Tenn.

Since the 1950s, being dead is virtually the only exclusion that can keep a registered voter from exercising this constitutional right. Mental qualifications for voting are very low unless the voter has been ruled incompetent by a court. Tests of reading, writing, command of the English language, mental capacity, and knowledge of the candidates have all been ruled unconstitutional. However, filling out another person’s ballot, unless as a service to the disabled, is illegal. If you suspect voting irregularities, the county electoral office is the appropriate authority to contact.
—David S. Starr, MD, JD (107-8)

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