Voting Rights Remain a Struggle for Many People with Down Syndrome

It’s Election Day, and get-out-the-vote efforts are in full swing. But unfortunately for many people in the Down syndrome community, there are limits on their right to vote.

A recent article in The Atlantic talks about the difficulties that many people with Down syndrome and their families face when seeking the eligibility to vote. The constitutions of about 30 states and the District of Columbia spell out limits on voting rights for people who have been ruled “mentally incapacitated,” or incompetent, by a court.

And the rules can vary greatly state-by-state, meaning people with Down syndrome who are eligible to vote in one state would lose that right if they moved across the border to another state. Click here for a state-by-state breakdown on regulations.

In the Atlantic article, Temple University professor Mark Salzer says these laws are outdated and propagate stigmas about people with mental disabilities.

“They think that if you have a mental illness — and they use the term broadly — then your rationality is impaired and you shouldn’t be able to vote,” Salzer told The Atlantic.

But some progress is being made. In Arizona, a law that took effect Aug. 1 granted those under full guardianship the right to vote after they appear before a judge to determine competency. The case was prompted by Clinton Gode, 25, who had fought for the right to vote since he was 18. The local judge found that Gode, who has Down syndrome, is capable of making his own choice about whom to vote for in the coming election and granted him the right. To read more about Gode’s triumph, click here.

Recent Posts