Personal Story

Impact Feature Issue on Political Activism and Voter Participation by Persons with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities

Peder Johansen’s Thoughts on the Idaho Voting Rights Campaign

Author(s)

Peder Johansen is Co-Vice Chair of the Arc of Latah County, and former member of the University of Idaho Center on Disabilities and Human Development Advisory Committee.

I am a 26-year-old man born with Down syndrome. I work, I pay taxes and I vote! I think I probably know a lot more about candidate positions than voters who vote straight party ticket, vote for someone on the advice of a friend, or vote for a candidate because they like their ad. Just because I happen to have a disability does not mean I am not capable of voting.

Working on our voting rights campaign made me realize how important it is to stand up for what we believe in. One day I was ringing doorbells asking people if they would put one of our signs in their yard. The man who came to the door told me he did not think that people like me should have the right to vote!!

For personal reasons I have asked my parents to act, on a limited basis, as my legal guardians. As my Mom has said, politics are very important to me. No one should be denied his or her right to vote. I watch the news and read the paper and I vote for the candidates who support my issues!

Last year my Mom and I assembled a notebook showing the things our group did to successfully change the state constitution.