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Autistic Adults Stripped of Right to Vote, Advocacy Group Alleges

July 10, 2014 | Los Angeles, CA

The Disability and Abuse Project filed a complaint on Thursday alleging that adults under limited conservatorships have been denied the right to vote in Los Angeles County. Advocates believe that this impacts thousands of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities including those on the autism spectrum.

The Disability and Abuse Project filed a complaint on Thursday alleging that adults under limited conservatorships have been denied the right to vote in Los Angeles County.What is a limited conservatorship?

A limited conservatorship is a type of adult guardianship for someone believed to lack the mental capacity to make important decisions such as those that affect their health, finances and education. Usually a parent or family member petitions the court to be granted the ability to make these important decisions on that persons behalf. Many adults with autism are under a limited conservatorship to ensure their health and well-being.

How does it affect a person’s right to vote?

According to the advocacy group, California law states that once a conservatorship has been established, the conservatee is given a test to see if they should be allowed to vote. They must be able to fill out an affidavit of voter registration and on many occasions, they have been instructed by a judge to do so without any help. Individuals that fall along the autism spectrum may not be able to fill out the forms without assistance, so their right to vote is taken away.

The complaint alleges that these actions are in violation of federal laws. The Voting Rights Act asserts that there are no tests to be given to determine a person’s ability to vote and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that a person with a disability be allowed to have someone help them vote if requested. The advocacy group also notes that not only are these actions in violation of the federal law but also of the Lanterman Act.  This California law states that those with disabilities, as well as their families, have the right to the same services and treatment as those with no impairment.

Advocates hope the complaint will trigger an investigation by the Justice Department and reinstate the right to vote to those who have had it taken away under these circumstances.

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