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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Voting Rights in Los Angeles County

Stephen Ceasar reports at The Los Angeles Times on Teresa Thompson, who learned that her autistic son could not vote if he were under a guardianship.
Thompson complained to a local disability rights group in Los Angeles, setting off a chain of events that led this week to federal authorities announcing they are investigating allegations that California has systematically and illegally denied intellectually disabled residents such as Lopate the right to vote.

The group, the Disability and Abuse Project, filed a complaint last year with the U.S. Department of Justice contending that the Los Angeles County Superior Court has wrongly stripped people under limited conservatorships of the right to vote if they could not fill out a voter registration affidavit.

Nora J. Baladerian, the group's executive director, said the issue impacts some of society's most vulnerable citizens, including people with cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and traumatic brain injury, among other intellectual disabilities.

"Naïve me. I thought in the courtroom the law was followed," Baladerian said. "It wasn't so. The rights of individuals with disabilities were not being upheld in court."

It is unclear how many people under conservatorship have their right to vote taken away each year. A spokesman for the county's Registrar of Voters said 123 voters had their registrations canceled since January 2014 for "mental incompetence."

A lawyer with Baladerian's group conducted a review of 61 conservatorship cases involving adults with developmental disabilities in L.A. County and found that nearly 90% of the people had been disqualified from voting, according to the group's complaint.