Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Repealed: Kansas voters repeal law that could block people with mental illness from right to vote

Back in the 1970s, Kansas passed a law that could prevent people with mental illness from voting. The law was never used, but advocates were successful in getting an amendment passed that revoked that law.

This law was passed at a time when stigma against mental illness was much higher than now. I'm guessing it was presumed that folks with a mental illness could not reason enough to exercise an informed vote, which is not true, of course. If 1outta5 have a psychiatric illness, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, then there could have been a huge swath of disenfranchised voters.

And there already exists, to a degree, a basic cognitive test for voting -- navigating the whole ballot process.  In Maryland, ours was electronic and no harder to use than an iPad, but I could still imaging some with severe dementia unable to navigate the system.  But there should never be a cognitive bar one must pass to vote; the challenge would be where you draw the line.