This Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute has filed a voting rights complaint with the United States Department of Justice. It alleges that the Los Angeles Superior Court has routinely and systematically engaged in activities that violate the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities.
Violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are alleged in the 100-page complaint. Victims are identified as adults who have had or who will have a limited conservator appointed by the Probate Court.
Limited conservatorships are a form of adult guardianship. Petitions for limited conservatorship are generally filed by parents or other relatives of adults with developmental disabilities because the parent or relative believes the adult in question lacks the capacity to make decisions in one or more major life areas: financial, medical, educational, marital, sexual, or social.
The issue of capacity to vote is raised in each new case after a petition for conservatorship is filed. A test is used by petitioners, attorneys, court investigators, and judges to decide whether a conservatee should be disqualified from voting.
The test is whether the adult in question is able to complete an affidavit of voter registration. Judges have told attorneys who represent people with developmental disabilities that the adult must be able to complete the affidavit on his or her own and may not have someone else fill out the form for them.
The federal Voting Rights Act prohibits states from using any test to determine eligibility to vote. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires states to allow an adult with a disability to have someone help them in the voting process.
The Los Angeles Superior Court, including its investigators, judges, and court-appointed attorneys are ignoring the clear mandates of these federal laws. As a result, thousands of people with developmental disabilities have unnecessarily and improperly been denied the right to vote in Los Angeles County.
The complaint documents these illegal practices and asks the Department of Justice to intervene so that the voting rights of past victims are reinstated. It also asks the Attorney General to require the court to stop using a test for voter eligibility in the future. A successful resolution of this case has statewide and national implications.Michael Blood writes at AP:
The complaint says judges in Los Angeles Superior Court use literacy tests to determine if adults in limited conservatorships should have voting rights, a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. It also says that judges and court-appointed attorneys violate federal laws that allow people with disabilities to have assistance to complete voter-registration forms and cast ballots.
"Autism is a broad spectrum, and there can be low skills and there can be high skills. But what I observed was that people tend to just dismiss it as though they have no skills," Teresa Thompson, whose son has autism and whose case helped prompt the complaint, said in a videotaped statement.