Topeka The Kansas Senate on Tuesday approved putting on the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would delete mental illness as a disqualification to vote.
The Kansas Constitution states: “The legislature may, by law, exclude persons from voting because of mental illness or commitment to a jail or penal institution.”
Advocates for those with mental illness, said mental illness is a broad category that affects as many as one in four Kansans, and such a disqualification provision would violate the U.S. Constitution and federal laws protecting people with disabilities.
Also, they argued, it was unfair to treat felons, who are punished by removing their fundamental right to vote, the same as people who are mentally ill. The Legislature has never passed a law to exclude people with mental illness from voting, but advocates said the provision still needs to be removed from the constitution because it’s discriminatory.
The proposal was approved 38-1. If approved in the House by a two-thirds margin, the measure would be put before voters in November.
State Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said even though the Legislature has never passed a law to exclude those with mental illness from voting “the stigma” of the language in the constitution was hurtful.