SAN DIEGO (AP) – A California judge restored the voting rights of a man with a traumatic brain injury after expressing doubts about his ability to communicate but saying she was bound by a new state law that makes it easier for people with developmental disabilities to cast a ballot.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Julia C. Kelety raised concern that David Rector’s conservator and fiancee, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, might attribute a level of cognition to Rector that he lacks and that Rector’s votes may reflect her preferences, not his.
But the judge said in her order dated Tuesday that she didn’t have evidence to support her doubts and lacked resources to investigate.
Alexander-Kasparik said Wednesday that she was delighted Rector can vote again.
“It means the world,” she said.
Under the California law that took effect Jan. 1, people with disabilities who are assigned conservators to manage their affairs can keep or restore the right to vote unless a court finds “clear and convincing evidence” that the person cannot express a desire to exercise it.
Rector, 66, was disqualified from voting in 2011, two years after a brain injury left him unable to walk or speak.
Last month, the judge said the former National Public Radio producer failed to demonstrate he was qualified to vote but that Alexander-Kasparik could submit evidence that he was. She filed a statement that described occasions when he expressed a desire to vote and said that he can hear, see, feel, think and comprehend.
Rector communicates with electronic devices, using his thumb or eye-tracking software to indicate what he wants, Alexander-Kasparik said.
The Spectrum Institute, which advocates for people with disabilities, highlighted Rector’s case in a petition to the U.S. Justice Department to require California to notify people who have been disqualified from voting about the law in time for the November election. Thomas Coleman, the institute’s legal director, estimates that 32,000 people may have lost voting rights in California.
Coleman said the restoration of Rector’s voting rights is “truly something to celebrate.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.