Denial of Vote for those considered to be ‘Mentally Incompetent’


With election day over and done with, minority groups around the country are feeling the threat of Donald Trump’s election.  And, while most had a say in the outcome of this election, there were some voters who were excluded from the conversation.

Approximately 30 states in the US have placed restrictions on disabled and mentally ill voters, or more specifically, those considered to be ‘mentally incompetent.’  In the past, laws such as The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 explicitly banned open discrimination against people with disabilities and guaranteed them access to all public areas of life.  However, disabled citizens marked ‘mentally incompetent’ by the state are not allowed to vote – despite their citizenship.  While it’s understandable why the state would consider this to be in everyone’s best interest, there are disabled members who are physically and mentally sound to vote but because of a technicality (being classified as ‘mentally incompetent’) they are turned away from the ballot booth.  Claiming someone as ‘mentally incompetent’ is a simple three-step procedure that unfairly brands plenty of disabled citizens.

The three steps are to first file a form and submit to a probate court, have said court administrate a mandatory physical and psychological test on the subject, then present the result before the court and await the verdict.

The steps are simple enough, but to add insult to injury, the courts in charge of handling these cases are probate courts.  Probate courts specialize in real estate matters, and although they are required to distribute assets in case the subject is declared to be ‘mentally incompetent,’ that’s hardly reason for them to be allowed to declare a verdict in matters such as these.  A different court should be handling these types of cases, such as a family court or even a new, specialized court for this specific type of case.  Not to mention, the physical and psychological test are mandatory.  A verdict can’t be doled out unless there are tests results provided.  However, if a subject is unwilling to undergo the tests, the person filing against the subject for mental incompetence can request a court order that forces the subject to take the evaluations. Let’s not forget that mental illnesses are not treated equally to a physical condition, and that allows an opportunity for error in diagnosis which would ultimately lead to an incorrect and unjust verdict.

Usually, the ‘mentally incompetent’ are under someone’s guardianship (which they can file for at the same time they are filing for mental incompetency).  But, living at home and requiring a guardian does not impede on the person’s independence, a guardian simply serves as aid.  Suffering from a physical or mental condition that requires you to receive aid from a guardian is hardly reason enough to deny someone the right to vote.  Mental illnesses and physical conditions have the capability to render someone unable to vote, but if it has not, then there shouldn’t be any restrictions placed.  To deny someone the right to vote is a denial of a basic freedom in this country and while we’ve come far in terms of extending civil rights to every niche group in the United States, it seems we’ve still got a ways to go.


Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures


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