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Barbara L. Photo 
Sara Pahl, MS, BCaBA, NCC

Beth Pitchford, MA

Dr. Amy Carrison, PsyD, LADC

Jennifer S. Reinke, PhD, LAMFT, CFLE
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Ask The Therapist

Dear Beth,
This will be my first time voting in a presidential election. Online, other people with autism were complaining about the primaries and how hard it was for them and I'm worried I'll meltdown at the poll and not get to vote. What should I do to prepare?
Eager for the Election
Dear Eager for the Election,
Thank you for such an important question! As a therapist I also heard feedback about the caucuses and other elections being very difficult or impossible for people on the spectrum. There's a good chance that this election will have a very large turn out so it's a good idea to be prepared.
Here's the basic process: wait in line, sign the voter roll, pick up your ballot, stand at a privacy station to fill in your ballot, walk to the location to either feed your ballot into a reading device or to put it in a secure box, pick up your I VOTED sticker, and you're on your way.
Now for details. First: be ready to wait in line. Depending on your polling location and time of day, there may be a long line. If you have trouble standing for long periods, it's not a bad idea to bring a small stool to sit on if that will prevent you from leaving the poll before you get to vote. There are supposed to be seating areas available, but in my experience, those aren't always easy to find.
Next I would recommend bringing your earbuds, headphones, or ear plugs as a lot of polls are in schools or other public locations where sound bounces off the walls. There may be a lot of people talking (small talk!) while waiting in line and it can get very noisy. If you don't want to engage in small talk, earbuds will communicate that to others. If you are open to small talk, remember not to talk about the candidates since you risk unintentionally starting a conflict as well as breaking the law about no campaigning within 100 feet of the polling place. Also, Minnesota has a law that "a voter shall not reveal to anyone in the polling place the name of any candidate for whom the voter intends to vote or has voted." If someone else breaks this rule it's best to ignore them (those earbuds are starting to sound like a good idea!). Your purpose is to vote, not to police the voting station.
After waiting in line, you'll walk up to a table where they'll ask you for your name. You are not required to show ID in the state of Minnesota but you do have to sign the voter roll to verify that it's you. Once you sign the voter roll you'll pick up your ballot from another table and then go to one of the privacy stations to vote. These are typically designed for you to stand and fill out your ballot. If you need help, you can disclose and say "I am a person with a disability. I need someone to read the ballot to me" or whatever accommodation you need. Another option in Minnesota is something called "Curbside Voting", which allows you to vote without leaving your car. You need to request this ahead of time, which you can do here
I've noticed that some young or otherwise inexperienced voters tend to think of going to vote like they would think of going to a test. They will think they can't bring anything with them. You can! You can bring notes about who you want to vote for on a notecard or piece of paper. Smartphones may not be allowed, so it's best to go old fashioned and write it down or print it out before you head down to the polling stations. To get a sample ballot, visit this website and put in your zip code. This way you can see all the other elections in your area too. It's not just the president up for election this year!
You also can vote early through an absentee ballot if you would like to complete your ballot early and mail it in. There's an application to complete. More information here.
Whatever you choose, make sure you prepare, research your candidates, and feel proud that you're making your voice heard.


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The AuSM Counseling and Consulting Team offers therapy and support:
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Established in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is a self-funded organization committed to education, advocacy and support designed to enhance the lives of those affected by autism from birth through retirement.