Of all the freedoms Anthony Flanagan lost during his eight years under state care, the right to vote was among the toughest. Flanagan, a quadriplegic who was deemed unable to care for himself because of psychiatric issues, lived under a legal guardianship by the state of Missouri from 2008 to 2016. Often seen as protective of people incapacitated by mental illness or developmental disabilities, guardianship can also strip people of many rights the rest of us enjoy, including the right to vote. Flanagan admired Barack Obama during his presidential run in 2008, thinking him intelligent and articulate. Though he doesn’t consider himself a member of either political party, Flanagan was disappointed that the state deprived him of the chance to vote in an historic election. “Like most of the country, I was like ‘Wow, they’re really gonna elect a black president! This is cool,” Flanagan, now 49, said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, I wish I could vote.’”
Of the 31 states that have such laws, Missouri by far removes the highest number of people form voter rolls due to mental incapacity.
When Flanagan was placed under guardianship by a state court judge in Columbia, he became one of the 10,018 people who have been purged from Missouri voter rolls in the past decade because of mental incapacitation or incompetence, according to federal government data.