Ryan Kelley

Document Type


First Page



Casting a ballot is a primary form of community participation in the United States. This exercise provides citizens with a means to safeguard their legal rights and effectuate change. Nevertheless, some citizens, such as people with mental disabilities, are often denied this fundamental right solely based upon their status. These citizens have faced a long history of pernicious discrimination at the hands of their communities, legislators, and even the courts. Yet, social policy has begun to evolve in light of more nuanced understandings of mental disabilities. This knowledge has also spurred the reform of state and federal law. While the prospect of change looms high, in the context of voting, some states lag behind and recent jurisprudence demands that they reform voter eligibility requirements. This Note calls for all states to ensure that the right to vote is a presumptive right of the mentally disabled, to facilitate its exercise, and to deny it by a clear and fair standard that only excludes the mentally incapacitated when there is a clear lack of understanding of the nature and effect of voting.