2016-07-03 ne-ginniecolumnJW14

Sharon Dunbar and her daughter, Rachel, stand at Patrick Henry Elementary School after voting on Tuesday. Rachel, 29, is disabled but votes every year. JESSIE WARDARSKI/Tulsa World

Rachel Dunbar waited patiently with her mother Tuesday at Patrick Henry Elementary to cast her ballot for Tulsa mayor.

The 29-year-old is shy and needs help reading the ballot, but she doesn’t miss an election. Her favorite is the presidential race.

“It’s good to vote,” she says.

Dunbar has intellectual disabilities but exercises her American right through several legal protections, including the Voting Rights Act (1965), the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act (1984), Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), the National Voter Registration Act (1993) and the Help America Vote Act (2002).

Dunbar is active in the community with a job at A New Leaf and as a regular competitor in the Special Olympics. As she approached 18, her family doctor encouraged her parents to look into a program that helps people with disabilities get the assistance needed to vote.

For Dunbar, she took an oath at the Election Board attesting that she needs another adult to guide her in reading and understanding what the ballot is asking. Usually, it is a parent who goes with her.

“It makes her feel a part of things. She has a vote like everyone else,” said her mother, Sharon Dunbar.

For weeks before an election, her family starts talking about the candidates and issues. They read the sample ballot. They watch debates when available.

While voting, she whispered to her mother and pointed to the different sections on a ballot. There may have been only a few boxes to fill in, but Dunbar was clearly being thorough in her choices.

“I read the ballot to her, but I tell her she can vote for who she wants,” Dunbar said.

When asked if she and her daughter ever differ in ballots, Sharon Dunbar chuckled: “Yes. Not often, but yes.”

The Dunbar family has been involved in politics for many years. Her father, Mark Dunbar, was a delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego.

“We would go to rallies and help put signs in yards. When our house was full of kids, we would stuff letters and pass out literature,” said Sharon Dunbar. “We’ve been pretty politically active.”

Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376


Editorial Writer

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Ginnie is an editorial writer for the Tulsa World Opinion section. Phone: 918-581-8376