Saturday, November 6, 2010

Voting Under Guardianship

Dear Jim Durbin, Jen Ennenbach, Ed Martin, and anyone else who believes those under court-ordered guardianship cannot vote in Missouri:

That used to be true, and I suppose if you ignore case law and read the Missouri Constitution only (as you are wont to do), you'd think it were that way still.

But it isn't.

In 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri said so. Sorry, but they're kinda the boss of you, guys.

In Prye v. Carnahan, the Court ruled that Missouri law did not bar wards from voting, whether under limited guardianship or full guardianship, because Missouri judges make that determination and can legally issue full guardianships while allowing the ward the right to vote. You can read the entire opinion here, but here are the highlights:
An election is undeniably an activity of a public entity, and the ADA prohibits excluding qualified individuals with disabilities from participating in a public entity's activities. (page 8)

The Court's conclusion might be different if the entire sum and substance of Missouri law dictated that any person with a legally appointed guardian - regardless of that person's abilities and limitations - could not vote. Such a situation might violate the ADA. However, this is not the entirety of Missouri law. Missouri affords an individualized determination of a person's abilities and limitations and denies the right to vote to those who lack the mental capacity to exercise that right and therefore are not qualified to do so. In short, the scheme is designed to differentiate those who are qualified to vote from those who are not, and deny the right only to those who are not. (page 10)

A full order of protection may be issued with exceptions, including an exception preserving the right to vote. A partial order of protection may also preserve the right to vote. Regardless of the option employed, the order actually issued is based on the particular circumstances of the person involved and based on an individualized assessment by a judge. (page 12)

That is why in 2008, Randolph County, Missouri Circuit resident Eric Williams was allowed to vote. Judge Cindy Suter ruled that he had the capacity to vote and was competent to do so. Just because someone cannot, say, manage his or her financial affairs does not mean he or she cannot vote.

Judges are generally reluctant to issue an order of guardianship without ample proof that it is needed, because to do so strips an individual of his or her rights. Further, judges are cautious and thoughtful when it comes to whether the ward needs full guardianship or whether he or she can still care for him- or herself with a limited guardianship.

In other words, Ed and crew, your cheap shots at the mentally disabled are just that. Cheap. Uninformed, too. I hope you will do the right thing, reverse your position, and just for good measure, apologize to the wards of Missouri who have been adjudged perfectly competent to vote.

After all, you kids love nothing more than demanding apologies.

I won't hold my breath.

1 comment:

  1. Feel free to apologize to me, personally, Ed Martin. I have a pair of kneepads here with your name on them that I can give to you. Unless of course you think that people with limited guardianship (LG) are property not people.

    Adam, this is an interesting case considering that I've been voting without obstruction since 2001, of which publicly the case regarding my LG is online and public record. So, in Ed Martin's opinion, I shouldn't have voted at all in the past decade, especially during that short stint where I was a Republican supporter. (And Ed Martin wonders why I've changed my ways and became a Democratic supporter. There's your sign, Ed.)

    Out of curiosity, Adam, does my LG give employers (private or public) an excuse not to hire me? That is where I have issue with my LG being on public display on the Internet.