Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, October 19, 2020

Having Dementia Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Vote

VoteEdward Kozlowski, who was born in Chicago 99 years ago, grew up on the farm. He often told his family about how his father walked across Siberia to come to America. 

Mr. Kozlowski enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II where he made four flights over Europe on D-Day. 

Mr. Kozlowski is a registered Republican who has voted in "virtually every election." “In my family, voting was the highest honor of citizenship,” his daughter, Judith Kozlowski, said. “You owed it to your country to vote; that was always the message.”

The right to vote and taking advantage of that right is something that is still important to Mr. Kozlowski, who is a resident of an independent living facility in Maryland. Understandably wary of exposure, Mr. Kozlowski did not want to vote in person,. With the help of his daughter, he was able to request a mail-in-ballot, despite him having dementia.

Although Mr. Kozlowski can become disoriented at times, he watches the news religiously and has tuned in for the presidential and vice-presidential debates. 

Mr. Kozlowski's daughter, Judith, read him the ballot in multiple short-sessions that spanned over several days. Mr. Kozlowski was able to tell his daughter which candidates he wanted to vote for, and that's all it takes. 

Although workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may believe that dementia disqualifies their citizens from voting and often refuse to assist them, it is simply not true. 

The only thing they need to be able to do, choose their candidate.

However, there are two considerations:

One: the person must express their interest in voting. If they express that they do not want to vote, the process should end there.

Two: If they are unable to read the ballot, you may help them but you cannot provide additional information or interpretation. 

See Paula Span, Having Dementia Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Vote, N.Y. Times, October 14, 2020. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2020/10/having-dementia-doesnt-mean-you-cant-vote.html

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