Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities

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Voting is a fundamental right in American society—the foundation of our democracy.  By expressing our views through voting, we can help ensure that our government develops and implements good policies and protects our civil rights.

And votes do count: In 2000, President George W. Bush won the presidential election by taking Florida with a margin of just 930 votes of the six million cast.

Voting by People with Mental Disabilities

Voting is just as important to people with mental disabilities as it is to everyone else. Yet their voting rights are widely misunderstood. As a result, they are often disenfranchised—by unwarranted concerns about their competence to vote, by inappropriate challenges to prevent them from voting, by refusals to provide or permit help with voting or by help that disregards the voter’s own choices.

A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities can be downloaded as a pdf.  It was produced in 2008 by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the National Disability Rights Network.  This booklet explains the rights of voters with mental disabilities. It can be a resource for people with mental disabilities, advocates, family members, service providers, election officials, state and local mental health and aging authorities, state legislators and others.

The text focuses on four areas of concern to voters with mental disabilities:

  1. Voter-competence requirements imposed by state laws or by election officials or service providers
  2. State photo-ID laws
  3. Voter challenges
  4. Providing help to voters with disabilities.

A final section describes the relationship between federal and state laws in this area. To help readers learn specifics about their state, we include a chart listing each state’s laws on voter-competence requirements. 

Download as PDF

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