The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether California illegally denied voting rights to people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and other intellectual or developmental disabilities, officials said Wednesday. The agency disclosed the probe in a May 15 letter to Secretary of State Alex Padilla and the California Supreme Court, in which investigators sought detailed records on how certain voters with disabilities are disqualified, an explanation of the rationale behind it and an account of how frequently it is happening.
The probe follows a federal complaint filed last year by advocates for the disabled who said thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including conditions such as Down syndrome, are being systematically denied the right to vote. The department is investigating whether state voting practices and procedures have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The complaint was anchored to cases in Los Angeles County Superior Court, but “we find the allegations to be of concern throughout the state,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincente Tennerelli.