With days to go before we elect a new President, many of the 1.5 million adults under guardianships in the United States have been stripped of their voting rights even though they may actually be competent and vocal about who they want to see in office. Most people who hear this ask, "How is that possible?" As explained in "Is Elder Guardianship A New Form Of Human Trafficking?," guardianships are supposed to protect older citizens. However, there is growing evidence of rampant abuse and exploitation that is robbing seniors of their hard-earned retirement funds as well as unjustly silencing their voices. Is getting older being criminalized in America?
Where you live matters and the battleground state of Florida, where there are reportedly 50,000 adults under guardianship, is one of the most prohibitive. Miriam, a 100-year-old Seminole County Resident, was turned away when she went to vote in the Florida Primary in March 2016. In a Florida 9 WFTV interview, she said, "I may be a little slower, but I am not mentally incapacitated." She added, "I want my voice to mean something." On April 12, 2016, WFTV 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 statute. Meanwhile, 24 other states, including Utah and Texas, have no specific laws regarding revocation of voting rights by a person assigned a guardian."
On August 30, 2016, Lillie, an 88-year-old African-American woman, was abducted from a doctor's appointment while her niece was filling out paperwork in the other room. The court-appointed temporary guardian and court-appointed attorney ad litem shuffled Lillie out, put her in a car and "placed" her in an undisclosed location against her will. After the appointment, Lillie's plan was to go to Flagler County Library to vote in the local Primary. This never happened. Less than a month later, she was stripped of all of her rights, including her constitutional right to vote, in a closed hearing with no opposing voices or cross-examination of the competency evaluators. It was a classic pattern for a fraudulent guardianship. Lillie has been isolated from her family for over two months with absolutely no contact while the court-appointed agents are billing against her assets. Once again, people are asking, "How is that possible?"
Born 1928 in North Carolina, 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. To be certain that she would be able to vote, she spoke with the local Elections Office during the summer to make sure her status was active. Always quite vocal, she was a highly respected leader as Supervisor of Instruction for public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland -- still one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.
Lillie watched every night of the Democratic National Convention and was excited about the potential of electing the country's first woman President. In a video interview from July 2016, she said, "It's wonderful to have a female in a head position for a change." 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, Lillie was 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." Reflectively, she added, "You'd think we have more changes by now." Ironically, the last act Lillie verbalized wanting to do before being abducted in such a deceptive manner was to vote. Now that won't happen. How can a woman so articulate and thoughtful about the election be disenfranchised?
Political pundits say, "the game will be won or lost in the battleground states." Interestingly, some of the key electoral states -- such as Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania -- are "hotspots" for fraudulent guardianships. The laws in these states facilitate the documented pattern of "Isolate, Medicate, Steal the Estate." With the rise of complaints against the Elder Guardianship system in these states and nationwide, how many competent seniors are being stripped of their right to vote as a casualty of financial exploitation? What percent of the 1.5 million "wards" could swing the election if allowed? Every vote counts... or at least it should.
Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy is a Harvard Business School-trained strategist and President of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. Her mission is to raise the consciousness of the planet and create a more sustainable world by releasing the potential in individuals. A seasoned life coach/speaker and founder of the first yoga studio in Harlem, she has been featured on the cover of Yoga Journal, in Oprah's book, Live Your Best Life!, and was selected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. An early Internet pioneer and TV executive, she has advised billion-dollar companies on their multi-platform engagement strategies. 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.
Note: Kennedy is the niece of Lillie featured in this article. As of November 4, 2016, Lillie's family still does not know where she is and the temporary guardian refuses to tell them or allow any contact. Kennedy has reached out to Governor Rick Scott's office, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Adult Protective Services, the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, and many local politicians. No one in Florida has been able to do anything to free her aunt from the Flagler County Court and its agents even though Lillie is being "unlawfully caged" which is "aggravated abuse, exploitation and neglect." This started off as a civil case and it is now criminal. Therefore, Kennedy is calling for a Federal investigation through the U.S. Department of Justice. For more, go to www.elderdignity.org. Watch the video and let us know what you think. For specific questions or suggestions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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