U.S. Justice Department agents are looking into allegations that the state of California and its courts are denying voting rights to residents with intellectual disabilities, according to media reports Wednesday. The Justice Department disclosed a letter sent last week to California’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Secretary of State Alex Padilla, asking for detailed records on how and why certain residents with disabilities were disqualified from voting, according to the Los Angeles Times. The department is now investigating whether the state’s voting practices violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The probe was opened after a 2014 complaint by the Disability and Abuse Project, an advocacy group, which alleged widespread abuse of California’s limited conservatorship program, wherein developmentally disabled citizens have an appointed caretaker who has special rights over them.
“We have discovered many policies and practices of agencies and individuals who operate the Limited Conservatorship System that routinely violate the constitutional and statutory rights of … limited conservatees,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincente Tennerelli said in the complaint.
The group accused the Los Angeles Superior Court of declaring people with intellectual disabilities unfit to complete voter registration forms without conducting a proper investigation into their competencies. It said that once someone is found incapable of registering, their names were permanently removed from voting rolls.