RALEIGH — Cecil Pearson’s daughter Darlene told him she voted for Barack Obama for president. President of what? Cecil says Darlene couldn’t tell you. Darlene, 40, is developmentally disabled and functions cognitively at about the level of a 7-year old. She lives in a group home with five other adult women in Roanoke Rapids.
“I was shocked when I learned she had voted,” Pearson told Carolina Journal. “She has never voted. My wife and I became her legal guardians in 1996 to prevent exploitation like this. We were not consulted. She is not capable of making an informed choice, and as her guardians we would not have approved it.”
Pearson said his daughter registered to vote at a Division of Motor Vehicles office in 1995 when staff at her group home took her to get a photo identification card. North Carolina Board of Elections records confirm that she registered in 1995, but the first vote she cast was Nov. 2 of this year. Cecil said he learned Darlene voted when he picked her up for a visit later the same day and she told him.
A series of CJ reports have unearthed organized efforts to register patients in state facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, and to assist them in voting. Advocates for the disabled contend these efforts are legal, but there appears to be some confusion involving state laws that govern voting rights. Cecil Pearson’s concerns reveal additional ambiguities in the legal boundaries between patients, guardians, and public officials regarding voting rights of the mentally and developmentally disabled in group homes and other private facilities.