My Vote Doesn’t Count

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In this landmark 2016 election year, the Florida Elder Guardianship system is being used to silence seniors.

Since 2012, Lillie has been caught in the Florida Elder Guardianship process which has been described as “Liquidate, Isolate, Medicate.” They are pressing hard to take away her last two remaining rights: the right to vote and the right to choose with whom to socialize – in essence, shutting out her family.

The guardianship system is set up to protect the senior, but in this instance, and apparently so many others, it is being used to exploit the elder. Individual civil rights are being ignored in order to gain financially. This is cruel and should be considered criminal, but is currently perpetuated within our U.S. legal system. As history has taught us with slavery and Hitler’s Nazi Germany, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

To take over Lillie’s assets, they are pushing for plenary guardianship —  which, in Florida, would take away ALL rights including the right to vote. 

Born 1928 in North Carolina and raised in a biracial household, Lillie has deep appreciation for the strides we have made in America to afford all people the civil rights they deserve. She takes pride in being a registered Democrat saying, “my parents were Democrats and all of my family members.” A resident of Palm Coast, Florida for over 20 years, she is registered to vote in Flagler County.

Lillie watched every night of the Democratic National Convention and is excited about the potential of electing the country’s first woman president. She said, “It’s wonderful to have a female in a head position for a change.” Lillie was a highly respected leader as Supervisor of Instruction for all public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland — still one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. When asked, “Do you think women make good leaders?,” her answer was quick and definitive, “I know they make good leaders. I know it. I don’t think it. I know it.”

She went on to say, “I’ll vote for Hillary. She’s been there and done that. She knows what has to be done. And I think that she’s an excellent person. I think that she is a person who is not prejudiced. She seems to be a person who is open to all races of people and give them the privileges they are supposed to get. I really do.”

Despite five years of abuse by the very system set up to protect her rights, she is still patriotic and hopeful. She said, “I’m proud to be an American. Yes I am – because so many places people don’t have the privileges that we have. It’s getting better but it’s taking time… You’d think we’d have more changes by now.” Watch her views in this video.

Lillie is an African-American woman almost 88 years old who is a proud Democrat and very articulate and thoughtful about the election. What possible reason could they have to take away her right to vote? What does her voting have to do with her deciding what she wants to do with her hard-earned money? As she said herself about her predatory granddaughter, “Just because people are helping her steal my money doesn’t make it right.” In the process of stealing her money, they are also stripping away her dignity and constitutional rights.

The right to vote is that single right that appears most often in the Constitution’s text – five times in all. In fact, four separate amendments – 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th – even use the same powerful language: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged.” Until recently, in order to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. you had to answer this question: “What is the most important right granted to U.S. Citizens?” The correct answer, according to the U.S. government, was “the right to vote.” 

With so many complaints against the Florida Elder Guardianship system, how many other competent seniors are being stripped of their right to vote?

On April 12, 2016, Florida’s 9 WFTV investigated and highlighted the state’s restrictive guardianship rules:

“Unless the court orders limited guardianship, voting rights are removed. In Georgia, appointment of a guardian is not a determination of the right to vote. In Colorado, the removal of voting rights is separate from guardianship. In Kansas, there is no disqualification statue. Meanwhile, 24 other states, including Utah and Texas, have no specific laws regarding revocation of voting rights by a person assigned a guardian.”

In Florida, there are 5 million people age 60 and older, and 3,000 under court-appointed guardian. Unless you’ve committed a crime, taking away a person’s right to vote is a civil rights issue and a blatant abuse of power that is wide-reaching in Florida. During this important election year, more investigation needs to happen on this issue and quicker steps needs to be taken to reform the abuse in the Florida Elder Guardianship system. Be sure to read the Huffington Post article, “Is Elder Guardianship a New Form of Human Trafficking?

In the meantime, Lillie is still in the fight. Please find out how you can help #FREELILLIE @elderdignitynow. If you have specific suggestions, email elderdignity@hotmail.com.

Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy — Harvard Business School-trained strategist, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Human Potential Advocate/Coach, and President of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. Her latest award-winning book—co-authored with her mother Columbia University-trained journalist Janie Sykes-Kennedy—is Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master on her teacher/mentor 98-year-old yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch.

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