North Carolina Voting Restrictions Proposed for Mentally Incompetent

Elder Care

A recent North Carolina Senate proposal for the ballots in November of 2014 is an amendment to remove the right to vote in North Carolina for individuals who have been determined incompetent by a court of any state. If passed into law, Senate Bill 668 will take the right to vote away from many senior citizens and individuals with disabilities who have been adjudicated incompetent by a court. (An individual’s constitutional right to vote may be granted back if a court restores their competency.)

The bill will require the State Board of Elections to provide a monthly report to each North Carolina county’s board of elections of all individuals who have been adjudicated incompetent. The county will then be responsible for sending written notice to the affected voters. The voter has 30 days to file an objection; otherwise their voter registration record will be removed.
The right to vote is a basic right of US citizens. However, in some states individuals are disqualified from voting. The National Alliance on Mental Illness helps advocate voting rights on behalf of individuals with mental disabilities, providing information on constitutional rights and federal laws that protect voters’ rights. With organizations like this protecting the right to vote, the elderly and those with special needs have been the target of some political groups that try to steer voting by influencing vulnerable individuals.
In 2012, local news reports uncovered organized voter registration in group homes and assisted living facilities, targeting the mentally disabled in North Carolina. Many families were unaware their relatives with dementia or impaired mental cognizance were taken to vote. If Senate Bill 668 passes, new restrictions will prevent senior living centers from the voting methods used in the past. At the same time, families may need to address other legal issues if an individual’s remaining constitutional rights are similarly compromised in future legislation. Depending on an individual’s health and capabilities, it may be critical for families with a senior or special needs family member to establish powers of attorney or guardianship. Discussing new laws with a North Carolina elder law attorney or special needs planning attorney can help prevent the individual from being taken advantage of, whether for voting, financial, or other important decision making.
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