Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Voting and the mentally disabled

(Image from telegraph.co.uk)

From the June 2010 NCSL Canvass:

More than 1 million adults in the United States are diagnosed annually with a chronic brain disease or disorder. As of the 2000 census, there were almost 30 million voting-age Americans with some kind of disability—mental or physical. Of these, 4 million were designated as having a mental disability and 2 million were identified as having a sensory, physical and mental disability. In sum, 20 percent of those with disabilities have a mental disability—3 percent of the voting age population.

The aging baby boomer population is causing concern that the mentally disabled population will grow exponentially in as little as 10 years. As of July 1, 2007, there were 37.9 million people in the United States aged 65 and older. This age group accounted for 13 percent of the population. According to the Government Accountability Office, by 2030, those aged 65 and over will grow to more than 20 percent of the population. The Family Caregiver Alliance points to an equally alarming estimate: The total prevalence of brain impairments of all types, including dementias, actually ranges from 13 million to 16 million.

As the prevalence of disabilities rises with increasing age, researchers suggest that the number of older people with dementia and other disabilities will similarly expand. The question arises: To what degree do states preserve the right to vote for those who are “mentally incapacitated” but who nonetheless retain the mental ability to vote?

Read how this issue arose in Maryland


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