Voting is perhaps the most fundamental of all rights. It is the foundation of our democracy. And votes count: in 2000, President George W. Bush won the presidential election by winning in Florida by a margin of 930 votes – out of six million cast.
People with psychiatric disabilities are often denied the opportunity to vote on the grounds that they are not “competent” to cast a ballot. Some states have laws forbidding people under guardianship from voting, regardless of whether they are competent to do so. Sometimes poll workers, election officials, and even service providers forbid people from voting by imposing their own “competence” standards that have no basis in law.
Under federal law, a person cannot be barred from voting because of “incompetence” except in very limited circumstances. As a rule, if a person is competent enough to go to the polls and vote, or to complete an absentee ballot, federal law requires that the person be allowed to vote.