- About Us
- Our Work
- Resource Library
- Get Involved
Voting is perhaps the most fundamental of all rights. It is the foundation of our democracy.
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.
It’s Your Right. A Know-Your-Rights Guide for Voters with Mental Disabilities and Advocates (PDF) (Updated 10/16/2020)
It’s Your Right. A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities (PDF) (Updated 10/16/2020)
Testimony to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PDF) (9/4/13)
Restoring the Voting Rights of People Under Guardianship (PDF) (2/8/22)
Chart of Voter Competence Laws (PDF) (10/16/20)
Absentee Ballot Requirements by State (PDF) (10/16/20)
Chart of State Laws on Voter Challenges (PDF) (10/16/20)
Summary and Links to Guardianship and Conservatorship Forms Provided by State Courts (PDF) (10/16/20)
Model Letter to State Election Officials (PDF) (7/08/16)
© 2016-Present Bazelon Center. All rights reserved.