Capitol Correspondence - 03.26.18

New Pew Analysis on Effect of Guardianship on People with Disabilities’ Voting Rights

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On March 21, 2018, Pew Charitable Trusts issued an analysis stating that the guardianship process affects tens of thousands adults with disabilities’ ability to vote. While there is no national data on the precise share of the over 1 million individuals under guardianship who are not allowed to vote, stripping voting rights is not uncommon.

According to Pew Charitible Trusts:

“Laws in 39 states and Washington, D.C., allow judges to strip voting rights from people with mental disorders ranging from schizophrenia to Down syndrome who are deemed “incapacitated” or ‘incompetent.’ Some of those states use archaic language like ‘idiots’ or ‘insane persons’ in their statutes.

The states that do not have similar restrictions are Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont.


Most states lack a clear legal definition of mental incapacitation, so it’s often up to a judge to make that determination, according to Jennifer Mathis, the director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Limiting the vote to people who have the mental capacity ‘sounds reasonable,’ Mathis said, ‘but it is applied indiscriminately.’”

Click here to access the full article.