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Mental Illness and Loss of Voting Rights April 16, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, Mental Illness and Voting Rights.
Tags: ,

Did you realize that in 39 of 50 States, there are restrictions on voting rights for people with mental illnesses? Do you know what your State’s position is on the voting rights of people with mental illness?

In Washington State, “All persons while they are judicially declared mentally incompetent are excluded from the voting process”  Washington Constitution Article 6 SS 3.

In addition, “Upon receiving official notice that a court has imposed a guardianship for an incapacitated person and has determined  that the person is incompetent for the purpose of rationally exercising the right to vote, under Chapter 11.88 RCW if the person is a registered voter in the county, the county auditor shall cancel the person’s voter registration.” Revised  Code of Washington  Ann. 29A.08.515.

The obvious question is what is the difference between mental illness and mental incompetence and who decides?

Several other issues follow this one. First of all, it’s a scary, slippery slope when we allow a court to determine who is competent enough to vote. Don’t like the way someone might vote?  Just declare them not competent enough to rationally exercise the right to vote. Take away their right to vote. Problem solved!

Secondly, and even scarier for me, if I’m reading this correctly, it appears that the second I was involuntarily committed, I lost my voting rights. Can this really be true?  It sounds like it.  Is this legal? Is this fair?  Is this constitutional?  I think not!  But where are my defenders?

If you would like to check out your own State’s position on voter rights for people with mental illness, check out this site:  http://www.bazelon.org/pdf/voter_qualification_chart6-08.pdf

Note:  This article was inspired by The Lunatic Fringe’s blog entry http://lunatickfringe.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/changing-the-kansas-constitution/



1. susan - April 16, 2010

Thank you for this. It’s very important to know. I;m passing this information on.

2. Astrid - April 17, 2010

It is ridiculous that a country/state would deny a person voting rights on the basis of “capacity”/”competence”. Even so, I wholly expected my country to have a similar law, but it doesn’t.

3. Crazy Mermaid - April 17, 2010

At what point does a judge declare a person incompetent? Seems this law is sufficiently vague to be ripe for abuse. Can someone be declared incompetent simply for having a differing opinion?

4. Danielle B. - April 19, 2010

I was found incompetent and spent 10 months in a state hospital but I wasn’t incompetent the social worker and psychologist lied to a judge to keep me in there because I wouldn’t go to a group home. I think it’s ridiculous that they can treat people like that. We are humans to and we have the right to vote no matter what or where we are.

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