NCICL: Banning incompetents from voting is unconstitutional




That’s right.  An analyst with The North Carolina Institute for Constitional Law — an outfit founded by former state Supreme Court Justice and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Orr — says legislation currently before the state legislature to bar people legally determined to be incompetent from voting in state elections is unconstitutional.

Here’s Tyler Younts’ take:

Recently introduced, Senate Bill 668 (SB 668)[2] is a state constitutional amendment that proposes to take away the right to vote of any “person adjudicated incompetent by a court of this State or another state…unless an order is entered that the person is restored to competency.”  SB 668, Section 1. However, SB 668 is probably unconstitutional in its current form.  As explained below, this amendment likely violates individual due process and equal protection guarantees, in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Oh, this is maddening.  This well-intentioned legislation was introduced with the hope of halting scenarios like THIS:

Cecil Pearson’s daughter Darlene told him she voted for Barack Obama for president. President of what? Cecil says Darlene couldn’t tell you. Darlene, 40, is developmentally disabled and functions cognitively at about the level of a 7-year old. She lives in a group home with five other adult women in Roanoke Rapids. 

“I was shocked when I learned she had voted,” Pearson toldCarolina Journal. “She has never voted. My wife and I became her legal guardians in 1996 to prevent exploitation like this. We were not consulted. She is not capable of making an informed choice, and as her guardians we would not have approved it.”

Pearson said his daughter registered to vote at a Division of Motor Vehicles office in 1995 when staff at her group home took her to get a photo identification card. North Carolina Board of Elections records confirm that she registered in 1995, but the first vote she cast was Nov. 2 of this year. Cecil said he learned Darlene voted when he picked her up for a visit later the same day and she told him.

A series of CJ reports have unearthed organized efforts to register patients in state facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, and to assist them in voting. Advocates for the disabled contend these efforts are legal, but there appears to be some confusion involving state laws that govern voting rights. Cecil Pearson’s concerns reveal additional ambiguities in the legal boundaries between patients, guardians, and public officials regarding voting rights of the mentally and developmentally disabled in group homes and other private facilities.

Cecil and his wife, Judy, live in Roanoke Rapids and run a small business there. Easter Seals of North Carolina and Virginia operates Darlene’s group home. Darlene and the others were taken in a van to an early voting site in Roanoke Rapids and voted curbside with assistance of a Halifax County election board employee. Pearson contends that the only way she could have made a choice on a ballot would be if someone made it for her.

Halifax County Elections Board Chairwoman Marilyn Harris told CJ that she was aware of Mr. Pearson’s concerns. “We had a registered voter who presented herself to vote. She asked for assistance and she was allowed to vote,” Harris said.

THIS is the kind of stuff we expected the “conservative revolution” in DC and Raleigh to roll back and correct.    Why shouldn’t we all be ticked off that our votes are being effectively canceled out by folks in group homes who can’t even tell you WHO Barack Obama IS or what he DOES?

In the linked story, the female subject in question is said to have the cognitive functionality of a seven year old.  If her being allowed to vote is OK, why not let actual 7 year olds vote?