Should mentally-impaired senior citizens be able to vote?

A Canfield businessman is questioning the voting process after his mother with dementia voted in the last two elections

Mahoning County voting

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Canfield businessman said he is concerned that his 87-year-old mother was able to vote in the last two elections.

Tony Bettile’s mother lives in Greenbriar Nursing Home in Boardman. She suffers from dementia, yet she was able to vote last November and was given a ballot for this year’s election.

“I decided this year, I would go and see how the elections took place in a nursing home,” he said.

Bettile took video with his cell phone on Monday, showing a worker with the Mahoning County Board of Elections going over a ballot with a resident. He says he then asked for a ballot for his mother.

“They just handed me my mom’s ballot, went back to her room, helped her vote and brought it back in and turned it in,” he said.

Bettile said due to his mother’s mental condition, she couldn’t understand the ballot or what answers to give.

“I was pretty much floored that she voted. That she was able to vote last year. I had no [idea] who could have helped her, how she would even have voted last year. I just came across it accidentally,” he said.

The Board of Elections collects absentee ballots from more than 30 nursing homes in the county. Poll workers are sent to the homes with lists of residents who have requested ballots, even if those seniors are not fully capable of understanding what they’re doing.

“A lot of times, those ballots will come back unmarked or maybe only one or two races voted on the whole ballot. That person still gets credit for voting,” said Tom McCabe, deputy director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

McCabe said Bettile’s video showed that poll workers were helping voters one-on-one — something they shouldn’t be doing. The law requires that a representative of each party assist with the process.

“That’s something that we’ll tighten up in the future,” he said.

As for whether voters with health problems — including dementia — can be kept from voting, McCabe says poll workers aren’t the ones to make that call..

“So long as a person is registered, regardless of age and ability, they’re still eligible to cast a ballot, if they can,” he said.

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