Ignored voting rights for the mentally disabled
As the election season comes to a close, there’s a topic that is rarely visited when it comes time for citizens to cast their ballots. On a state level, certain restrictions have limited citizens deemed mentally incompetent from voting, including those with Down syndrome or other mental disabilities for years.
Though this may sound like a trivial matter to some, if we’re going to be a country preaching about voting equality, these outdated laws need reformation. The reasoning behind most of these laws, including those in Texas, is that those with mental disabilities are coaxed into voting a certain way. The underlying message sent by these policies is that the mentally disabled naïveté is different from that of the average voter; it’s not as if we haven’t all seen someone blindly influenced by their parent’s or peer’s political beliefs.
Laws vary on a state level, for instance, Texas limits those declared mentally incompetent by a judge from voting; however, some of the laws in other states limit people from voting based on their classification of mental retardation or limited guardianship. These restrictions are an atrocity to equality.
Information provided by the National Disability Rights Network shows that 30 states and the District of Columbia have loopholes for citizens with cognitive and emotional impairments. The percentage of states with these types of laws have the potential to do more harm than the cases in which a disabled voter is coaxed toward a political party.
There are policy issues that directly affect the mentally disabled, specifically health care, a hugely contested issue during the most recent campaigns. It would be an insult to anyone that had to stand before a judge to be deemed “competent” to receive the right to vote, that level of insolence can be grasped.
Equality means equality, if there aren’t any quantitative measurements to prove that coercion is prevalent among mentally handicapped voters, then it shouldn’t be used as reasoning behind keeping the laws intact.
Despite what most commentators say, there is no right or wrong choice in an election, and the refusal of one law-abiding person to vote based on any physical or mental characteristics defeats the purpose of suffrage in a democracy.
Nick Bell is a media production senior and may be reached at [email protected]