VOTING

Overview

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.

 

PUBLICATIONS

It’s Your Right. A Know-Your-Rights Guide for Voters with Mental Disabilities and Advocates (10/20/2016)

  • A consumer-friendly version of our voting rights guide intended for people with mental disabilities and their non-lawyer advocates. With the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, National Disability Rights Network, and Schulte, Roth & Zabel.

It’s Your Right. A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities (9/27/2016)

  • A newly-updated voting rights guide for people with mental disabilities that lists key legal principles, provides information about state laws and practices that limit the voting rights of people with mental disabilities, and offers tools to help people with disabilities preserve or restore their voting rights. With the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, National Disability Rights Network, and Schulte, Roth & Zabel.

Testimony to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (9/4/13)

  • Addresses the voting rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and includes recommendations on topics the Commission should address.

Restoring the Voting Rights of People Under Guardianship (PDF) (8/30/12)

  • This publication includes model motions, affidavits and orders that people under guardianship—or their family members or advocates—can use to restore voting rights taken away because a person with a mental disability has a guardian.

STATE RESOURCES

Chart of State Laws Affecting the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities (10/5/2016)

Chart of State Laws on Voter Challenges (10/5/2016)

Summary and Links to Guardianship and Conservatorship Forms Provided by State Courts(10/5/16)

Absentee Ballot Requirements by State(10/5/16)

Model Letter to State Election Officials (PDF) (7/08/16)

  • This letter can be adapted and used to alert state election officials to voting problems faced by people with mental disabilities. It also describes federal laws that protect the voting rights of people with mental disabilities.