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Voting Rights Denied To People With Disabilities


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With just two weeks before election day, laws in more than half of states mean that some people won’t be able to cast a ballot simply because they have a disability.

Constitutional provisions in about 30 states allow the right to vote to be denied to individuals with mental disabilities if a court has determined that they are “mentally incapacitated.” In some states, such a determination can be automatic if a person is found to need a guardian to handle money or make medical decisions, for example.

Supporters of the laws insist that they prevent fraud by ensuring that those with disabilities are not taken advantage of at the polls.

However, disability advocates say that allowing voting rights to be taken away from people on the basis of their disability is outdated, reminiscent of the days when institutionalization was the norm.

“The stereotype is that a person with a mental disability can’t express a preference, and is more susceptible than other people to have some undue influence from someone else,” one advocate told The Atlantic, insisting that there’s no data to suggest that’s the case. To read more click here.

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Comments (10 Responses)

  1. patsy soto says:

    There is something to be said about this issue- it is a hard one to decide…. I have children who will never vote, but I accept that, because my daughters are severly autistic… however, my son has ADHD, and mild retardation. He knows about President Obama, and can point him out, and calls him president. I have to take care of all his affairs, but could there be a case for him to be able to vote one day? Our people are citizens, and every law that comes out of Washington affects them as surely as anyone else. They deserve the same rights, and in a lot of cases they are either denied those rights, or they come with strings attached. This is something I think many parents, caregivers, teachers, and others who work with our special people should think carefully about, and work with law makers who can help make a real difference in how our people could, and should, participate in the voting process.

  2. David G. says:

    We encourage and assist our mentally disabled adult son to vote – he has his opinions but needs help with navigating the voting machine.

    On the other hand, I have heard stories about the residents of institutions in the Pittsburgh area getting herded into buses to be taken to polling places so they could be encouraged by staff to pull the “Democrat” lever to make a pure party-line vote … is that an abuse or an exercise of their voting rights or taking advantage of them to achieve political gain? Makes you wonder …

  3. Jennie says:

    Stop speaking for the masses as if they have one voice. “Disability advocates” are not of one mind. Stop using this as a political platform to forward the editor’s political agenda. It’s true that many with intellectually disabilities that are significant enough to qualify for a guardianship are at high risk for exploitation in the voting arena. The only reason “Disability Advocates” of the liberal persuasion support this is because they assume they would be “assisted” to vote Democrat. If the majority voted conservative these same advocates would question their competency. Stop spinning and dramatizing the headline. Is this the National Enquirer?

  4. KA101 says:

    Notice how people who can vote are doing the talking here.

    I suspect that given the choice of voting for “people who want to let one retain the right to vote” or voting for “people who want to deprive one of that right”, most people would vote to keep their vote. It’s much easier to take rights away than it is to grant them. Thus, I’m inclined to let people vote.

  5. Specialeedsadvocate says:

    All a parent has to do when they get guardianship, is to ask to judge to retain the person’s right to vote. That’s what I did and I have full guardianship over my son. He has been deemed totally incapacitated, but he still gets to vote, even though our state statute says otherwise. I used to work with someone (with no disabilities) who automatically voted for whoever was last alphabetically because he was always last and had a chip on his shoulder about it. So, if my son wants to pick a circle to pencil in for WHATEVER reason, that is his right!

  6. Nicole LeBlanc says:

    Voting ID LAWS and laws that prevent people who have Guardians NEED to Repealed ASAP!!! This is outrageous and Discriminatory !!! Its time for society to Presume Competance and allow everyone to Vote regardless of their minority status ! The Medical Model of Disability need to be eliminated!!! Wake Up America!!!! THIS IS THE LAND OF THE FREE!!! Dont infringe on Our Liberty!!!!

  7. Grant says:

    Just because you have a right to vote doesn’t mean you should. This applies to everyone, disabled or not, but there are no rules/laws to prevent people from voting for a candidate regardless of their reason behind it. So, if a person can vote for a candidate based on which one wore a better looking suit in the debate…why can’t a person with a mental disability who has watched the debates, did research about the candidates plans, and wants to vote for a candidate they feel will best help the country have the same opportunity to vote? To me being disabled or not disabled really doesn’t have much to do with your level of knowledge or ignorance, what matters is your personnel feelings/thoughts as a person. If you want to vote regardless of your reason behind it you should be able to. If you don’t want to vote then don’t, and no own should try and force you to.

  8. renee nunez-kemp says:

    “Hunter Sargent, 35, from Plymouth, MN, says that he feels these sorts of stigmas have affected him, even though he is legally allowed to vote. He skipped voting one year because he was discouraged by how officials had talked down to him at polls in the past….
    Since the year he skipped voting, he has been bringing someone with him to the polls so that he’ll be more comfortable, a decision he calls an “emotional security blanket.” His wife of two years, Holly, as well as his personal care attendant will both being going to the polls with him this November when he casts his vote for President Barack Obama.”

    Based on the story of Hunter Sargent, there should be some general decisions made about this issue. No one, whether old, disabled or from various ethnic groups should be “talked down to” at the polls. Officials should be trained with multicultural awareness and be trained in the the basic “People First” ethical codes of behavior toward people with disabilities. This training could take place in about 30 minutes or less. Aside from that, it is very disturbing that each state has different rules for who is “qualified” to vote. There needs to be a general national stance to decide who is qualified to vote so that it does not vary from state to state.

  9. OceanGoingGal says:

    When I lived in NH I took care of a woman who was mentally challenged. When she expressed definite opinions on the candiodates I asked her if she wanted to vote. She said yes. I took her to get registered. She was unable to read so I was with her in the voting booth and read the choices to her and let her make her choices. She was happy to have a say in who became our president. She was also very proud to have voted for the first time in her life. To take this right away from her would be wrong and a violation of her rights.

  10. Jeanie says:

    I wonder if David G’s story is actually true or part of the partisan mythology of voter fraud. If his story is true, then why wasn’t it reported? Why didn’t he report it? Because those stories 99% of the time are false. And do they still have voting machines with levers? Anyway, handling money shouldn’t be a consideration. If it were, there are an awful lot of people deep in debt whose voting privileges should be suspended.

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