As the November presidential election neared, it looked like David Rector would once again be unable to vote. Five years ago, a judge ruled that a traumatic brain injury disqualified him. Then the 66-year-old former NPR producer learned about a California law that makes it easier for people with developmental disabilities to keep and regain the right to vote. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, protects that right if they can express a desire to vote. On Tuesday, Rector will seek to have his voting rights restored, and advocates representing him and others who have been disqualified will file a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department asking that California be required to notify them of the new law in time for the Nov. 8 ballot.
All but about a dozen states have some type of law limiting voting rights for individuals based on competence. Advocates say how those laws are enforced varies widely — not just by state but by county and judge.
Supporters of these limits say restrictions are in place to protect against voter fraud.
Under California’s new law, seniors and others with disabilities that are assigned conservators to manage their financial and other affairs keep the right to vote unless a court finds “clear and convincing evidence” that they can’t express a desire to exercise it.