I wish I could say that my first voting experience was an exhilarating one. In fact, it was a humiliating fiasco. What made it so was the reaction of the electoral officers to my request for assistance.
In March of 1975, I was old enough to vote in Edmonton’s municipal election. I felt proud to do my civic duty as I walked into the hall where the voting booths were set up.
Seeing two elderly women seated at a table, I approached them and asked, “I don’t see very well. Would one of you show me how to vote?”
Instead of showing me the ballot and how to choose the candidate of my choice, one woman grabbed a form and started writing on it. When she finished she said, “This form says that you’re disabled and unable to sign your name. Just put an X here.” She guided my hand to the spot and I reluctantly printed an X. All the while, I wondered why they thought I couldn’t sign my name.
“Now,” the woman continued, “I’ll read off the names for you and you tell me which one you want to vote for.”
She read each name and when she said the candidate of my choice , I said, “yes.”
As I walked toward the door, one of the women warned, “Be careful now. Don’t fall down the steps.”
Though I had no experience with voting, I knew something was dreadfully wrong with the way I had been treated by those election volunteers. Just because I had poor sight, they figured I was an idiot. I don’t remember my second election but in the remainder of my opportunities to vote, nobody treated me as if I was mentally deficient.
Voting is an important privilege. Millions of people are either not allowed to vote or their country’s elections are a sham. Others can vote but they face the threat of terrorist attacks. In some lands, opposition groups intimidate voters to vote for their candidate. Even America wasn’t immune from this as we saw in 2008 with the New Black Panthers and their voter intimidation antics at some polls. As long as I can, I’ll exercise my right to choose the leadership of my municipality, province, and national government.
I listed other humiliating experiences, caused by sighted people, in Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School. Visit my Bruce Atchison’s books page to learn more about it.