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November 18, 2014: An electorate that discriminates. Jim Rayphand

At NMPASI, we take some pride in our autonomy. I think it’s something of an art-form to operate in political circles with political beings inside and out of our office without ever becoming political, at least as an organization.
Certainly each of us (board members, staff and clients alike) has an inherent interest in the political state of our commonwealth. In fact, our office and the national protection and advocacy system as a whole grew out of the political arena...that is after all where federal grant dollars get doled out. Locally, we all have friends and family who are politicians and/or heavily vested in the political process, yet we manage to hold steady on that fine line between being on the inside looking out and on the outside looking in.
That said, it is a little unnerving for me to chime in on matters relating to our on-going election particularly as they relate to our remaining candidates for the governor’s seat.
I suspect I am one of the remaining few people still on the fence about who I will vote for this week — it seems like every day I get some new tidbit of information that makes me flip-flop between one side over the other — but, whoever that may be is ultimately irrelevant...my vote, my business. I do not concern myself with how other people choose to vote and I expect that my measly, little vote should be of no concern to anyone else.
What does concern me are the seemingly endless innuendos and outright insults toward both candidates relative to disabilities they may or may not have — probably my own fault for reading anonymous blogs, but if there is any credence to what some of them say namely that Mr. Hofschneider has a mental illness and that Governor Inos has some kind of circulatory impairment, the question then is so what? Some of the worst cases of discrimination against people with disabilities are rooted in this ignorant notion that simply having a disability label is somehow relevant. Or that having a disability automatically means that the person is not capable of leading a normal life as a productive, contributing member of society.
It’s bad enough to know that we have an electorate that is generally under-informed, myself included, but it is nearly unbearable to think that this election could be swayed by an electorate that discriminates on the basis of a disability.
I don’t know either gentleman personally and, truth be told, I don’t really know much about their politics (anonymous bloggers aside); however, I do know that later this week I will vote for one of them and that my vote will based on what I believe he (and his running mate) can do and not on what I assume they can’t do. The only question for me is, can they perform the essential functions of the job?
Sometimes attitudes are the real barrier, but having a disability does not mean without ability. For more on information on discrimination against people with disabilities, please feel free to contact NMPASI at (670) 235-7273/4 [tel.] / 235-7275 [fax] / 235-7278 [tty] or on-line atwww.nmpasi.org/.
The writer is executive director of the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc.