Court grants 25-year-old right to vote

A Lake Havasu City, Ariz., resident with Down Syndrome has worked hard to earn a precious right that millions of Americans take for granted and fail to exercise.

Clinton Gode, 25, was authorized to vote by court order Thursday in Kingman.

"I love it," Gode said Friday.

He said he soon will register as an independent and looks forward to casting his first ballot in the November general election.

Art Gode said his son and other Arizonans deemed physically or mentally incapacitated were previously prohibited from voting. That changed when state lawmakers passed House Bill 2273, which allows incapacitated persons to petition for court authorization to vote.

Clinton Gode was the first to be granted the right to vote via court petition under the new law, which he helped to get passed.

The younger Gode, who has long been interested in politics, was the face of bill as it moved through the Legislature.

The Godes' lawyer, James Chavez, said Clinton Gode demonstrated sufficient understanding to vote during Thursday's hearing before Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen. The judge said he was thrilled to grant Clinton Gode's voter privilege petition.

"It was awesome to have this young man who actually went down to the Legislature and lobbied for this particular bill to get passed and then to have him come into my courtroom and prove to me that he is capable of voting," Jantzen said. "It was very impressive."

The Arizona Center for Disability Law also lobbied for the new law. The executive director of the Tucson-based organization, Peri Jude Radecic, said Clinton Gode met several lawmakers who took up his cause as the legislation advanced at the state capitol in Phoenix.

"Clint is an inspiring individual, and Clint's desire to vote should inspire everybody to exercise their right to vote," Radecic said.

Radecic, Jantzen and Gode each expressed dismay that so many American's don't vote or even bother to register to do so.

"That's not good," Clinton Gode said.

Radecic said she had no idea how many incapacitated individuals might follow Clinton Gode's footsteps to voting booths in the future.

"It's our job now to educate the public about the process," Radecic said.

Art Gode said of his son's achievement was "probably the proudest point of my life. ... He's been pushing to be able to vote for a long time, and he is just beside himself. He is just tickled pink."

Art Gode said his son is highly functional but requires some oversight and assistance at the New Horizons facility, where he lives in an apartment. Clinton Gode has held a job as a grocery store bagger and participates in the Special Olympics.