Aged Politicians; A Protected Class?
Where Do Voter's Rights End?
Council member Ruth Atkin is incorrect: elected representatives, including elderly representatives, are not a protected class. In fact they are subject to all manner of public musings, condemnations, inquires , speculation and even accost by all comers. And the Country's founding documents set it up that way.
We've got a right to know.
Ms Atkin made the pronouncement at Wednesday's candidate debate at City Hall that Emeryville voters have no right to know about the health and especially the age of any council candidate in response to a question from the audience about that. "It's ageism" she commented and she noted that the elderly in America are a legally protected class. In fact, she's right in one regard; the elderly are so protected from prying employers, unscrupulous landlords and such.
But democratically electing a government representative is not like hiring a simple employee. There is a sacrosanct nature of the enfranchisement and voters have a right to know a lot about a candidate including age and health.
Voters need to know whether a particular candidate is fit for the job, whether they may become incapacitated in the voter's judgement. They need to know whether a candidate may likely step down and not complete the term, especially if there is a municipal procedure to allow a council replacement appointment.
Now if a candidate for elective office chooses not to reveal her age or answer truthfully questions about her health, that would be her prerogative, however if the press were to find out this information and publish it, there is no crime committed.
We have to ask Ms Atkin; who's breaking the law, in her estimation, the Tattler (for instance) by reporting these unrevealed facts of a candidates age or health or the voters by voting with consideration of these facts? Who gets the handcuffs?
We abhor ageism in all its manifestations but this cannot be construed as ageism, it's democracy and it's about transparency and it's about the voter's right to know.