Archive for Friday, January 22, 2010

Mental health advocates seek constitutional change

January 22, 2010

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— Mental health advocates on Friday urged legislators to place on the ballot a proposal to eliminate mental illness from the Kansas Constitution as a disqualification to vote.

“The current language singling out persons with mental illness is flagrantly discriminatory,” said Rick Cagan, executive director of the state organization of the National Alliance on Mental Health.

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 disabilities asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to adopt Senate Concurrent Resolution 1622, which would remove mental illness from the constitutional provision. The committee took the matter under consideration.

Mental illness is a broad category that affects as many as one in four Kansans, and such a broad disqualification provision would violate the U.S. Constitution and federal laws protecting people with disabilities, the advocates argued.

Also it was unfair to treat felons, who are punished by removing their fundamental right to vote, the same as people who are mentally ill, they said.

“Someone who suffers from mental illness should not be placed in the same category as felons when it comes to voting rights,” said Michelle Sweeney, policy analyst with the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

Several committee members questioned whether people with mental illness who are legally committed to an institution could exercise the proper judgment to vote.

“There has to be a level of capacity for a person to make a decision,” said state Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City.

But the advocates argued that many voters don’t exercise the proper judgment when voting, and they aren’t precluded from the right to cast a ballot.

Amy Campbell, with the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, said some people vote for someone because they like the way the candidates’ name sounds or where the candidate is placed on the ballot. “In no case should an individual with a mental disorder be prevented from voting,” she said.

State Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said there may be concerns that people with mental disorders would be preyed upon by unscrupulous politicians to get their vote. But Campbell said there already are laws in place to prosecute people who improperly try to sway someone to vote for a certain person.

To get on the ballot in November, SCR 1622 would have to be approved on a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

Apparently the Legislature has never exercised its authority to pass 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.

Comments

Kris_H 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm ashamed to say I didn't even know that was in the state constitution.

I would like to make a joke about mentally ill voters already being the norm in Kansas, but I vote here too...

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 4 months ago

I wish I could change my constitution, but, let's face it, I'm mentally ill.

rbwaa 5 years, 4 months ago

"State Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said there may be concerns that people with mental disorders would be preyed upon by unscrupulous politicians to get their vote."

unscrupulous politicans already prey upon all of us to get our votes......

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 4 months ago

Since girlfriend does not vote, this article explains so much.

notajayhawk 5 years, 4 months ago

"Mental illness is a broad category that affects as many as one in four Kansans"

That's at any one time. Actually, over a lifetime, more than half the population could be diagnosed with a disorder in the DSM. The wording of that provision is overly broad; at the time it was written people may have had a narrower definition of 'mental illness', but today that consists of everything including simple adjustment disorders, dysthymia, or such wonderful 'illnesses' as trichotillomania, that have absolutely nothing to do with a person's capacity to make decisions. (And the next version of the DSM reportedly almost doubles the number of disorders people can be diagnosed with.)

When I worked in acute-care psych in another state, part of the admissions packet in the ER was a voter registration application - and this was for people who were in the process of being involuntarily committed.

Hey, we let all the BDS sufferers vote, didn't we?

skinny 5 years, 4 months ago

Next thing you'll know they'll want them to be allowed to by guns too!

slhix02 5 years, 4 months ago

Mentally ill is not the same as developmentally disabled. Mental illness includes everything from depression and anorexia to schizophrenia and bi-polar. You cannot look at a person and know whether or not they have a mental illness. Unless the state of Kansas wants to illegally tap into its citizens' medical records, the Constitution needs to be changed.

Centerville 5 years, 4 months ago

I wonder how this idea fits in to the (dearly departed) HHS 'review' panels. Kathleen sends a list to the KDP and some, shall we say, micro-targeting begins.

davidsmom 5 years, 4 months ago

"Amy Campbell, with the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, said some people vote for someone because they like the way the candidates’ name sounds or where the candidate is placed on the ballot. “In no case should an individual with a mental disorder be prevented from voting,” she said.

I am not passing judgment on the argument for or against the Constitutional change, but does Ms. Campbell really believe what she said in that statement? It sounds pretty absurd to me. On what basis did she say this?

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 4 months ago

I take my constitution first thing pretty much every morning.

JDYikes 5 years, 4 months ago

Not only is the idea of denying a whole class of people a horrific prospect, but the apalling and uneducated attitudes of most of the comments shows how far our society needs to go regarding treating ALL people with equality and respect. The statements here are akin to overt racism, bigotry and discrimination - think about it - just a different class of people. Grow up!

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