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Disabled People are Often Prevented from Voting


The Star Advertiser reports that disabled people are often prevented from voting. This gross violation of disability rights happens despite laws designed to prevent it. In order to combat this sort of discrimination, a person often has to pursue legal action to protect his or her civil rights. If you find yourself denied your right to vote because of your disability, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to try to enforce your rights.

Advocates Claim Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled People Denied Access to Polls

According to the report, advocates for the disabled claim that people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and other intellectual or developmental disabilities have been systematically denied their rights to vote. In a complaint by the Disability and Abuse Project, the agency argues that intellectual and developmental disabilities are not automatic barriers to participating in elections, yet thousands of people with those conditions have been denied that very right.

The current complaint focuses on California and deals with adults who enter into limited conservatorships. These are legal agreements where parents or guardians assume the rights and responsibility for making medical and financial decisions for a person who cannot manage those affairs on their own. In entering into these agreements, the person who is the subject of the conservatorship commonly has his or her voting rights voided. Advocates previously filed a similar suit in Missouri and were successful in changing the New Jersey constitution to protect disabled people’s rights.

CBS reports that all but approximately one dozen states have some sort of law limiting voting rights for individuals based on competence. But how those laws are enforced varies wildly. And that is the problem. People who live with intellectual or developmental disabilities are not all the same. Even within one disorder, like Autism Spectrum Disorder, individuals with the condition have a wide variety of abilities and competencies. People with Down Syndrome provide another example. And drawing the line at those who take advantage of legal protections, like limited conservatorships, strips rights from people who have the ability to engage in the political process. Just because a person may not be capable of handling his or her long-term finances without assistance, that does not mean he or she cannot form an opinion as to who should sit on the school board or in the oval office.

Americans With Disabilities Act

The right of disabled people to vote is protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. This includes intellectually or developmentally disabled people so long as they understand what it means to vote, which includes people who cannot read because of their disability. If you fall into that category, you have a right to have a person of your choosing help you vote. If the person at the polls claims you cannot vote, then you should request a provisional ballot—this will allow you to vote. Then the vote will not be counted until the appropriate officials decide whether you have the right to vote or not. At that point, if you have the right to vote, your vote will be counted.

If someone attempts to take this right away from you or a loved one, don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Davis Levin Livingston for immediate assistance.