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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Voting Rights

Minnesota is grappling with the issue of voting rights for disabled people under guardianships. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:
"I want to vote," said Dave McMahan, a 61-year-old military veteran with mental illness who lives in a Minneapolis group home and has his affairs controlled by a legal guardian. "I've been through sweat and blood to vote. I don't want my rights taken away, because I fought for my rights here in the United States and expect to keep them that way."
Equally passionate is Ron Kaus of Duluth, an activist and plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that has raised the issue. Citing allegations in Crow Wing County in 2010, Kaus worries that disabled people have been hauled to the polls and told whom to vote for, which would be a crime. "It's one of the sickest form of exploitation, political abuse," he said.
At stake are the voting rights of an estimated 22,000 people whose affairs are controlled in varying degrees under guardianships. Under current law, they retain the right to vote unless a judge takes it away. That presumption, and its apparent conflict with the state Constitution, has been questioned in the lawsuit and in debate at the Legislature earlier this year.
Adults who have court-appointed guardians to handle their affairs retain the right to vote unless a judge intercedes. Many under guardianship were profoundly disabled children who were placed under guardianship when they became adults so someone, often a parent, would have the legal authority to make medical and life decisions for them. Others are frail seniors without family, or those with severe, chronic mental illness.
See here for a brief summary of state laws.