CINCINNATI (WKRC) - One-and-a-half million people across the country are under guardianship, and considered unable to make decisions for themselves, but many are still legally able to vote. That includes thousands of people in the Tri-State area.
‘My initial response was, 'She shouldn’t vote!',” said Leslie Knepper from Owensville. “Because she was declared unable to live alone, she’s unable to make her medical decisions.”
Knepper has guardianship over one of her family members, who called her over the weekend excited that she just voted.
“I had a lot of concerns,” said Knepper. “The first is, 'If I can’t get in there, who did?' Who took it, how it was marked, and whether it was legal that she voted.”
Knepper's family member is a nursing home resident. A staff member told Local 12 that they had two other staff members certified to administer ballots -- one Republican, one Democrat. In Ohio, nursing homes can request their own certified staff, or have people from the Board of Elections come administer ballots.
“The right to vote is precious,” said Director of Election for Hamilton County, Sherry Poland. “And this is not one that the Board of Elections can make a determination on. If you have a family member that you believe is not mentally competent for voting purposes, then you should seek guidance from the probate court.”
“A person could be adjudicated incompetent, found incompetent to manager their property and their personal affairs, and yet still be able to vote,” said probate attorney Julia Meister, of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. She says judges need to be petitioned and then determine whether to render someone incompetent to vote, with no set criteria.
The fact is, of Hamilton County's 600,000 voters, none have been rendered incompetent to vote.
Knepper says she is now convinced her family member was able to vote competently, and the act of voting may have done her some good.
“I haven’t heard her that excited on the phone in a couple of years," she said. "She kept saying, ‘It’s official, I voted!'”
People in Kentucky, like Ohio, need a probate judge to rule them incompetent to vote. Indiana has no law on the books regarding voting competency. There are states, like New Jersey, that do not allow people to vote if they are under someone else's guardianship.