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Voting under guardianship

Published (3/9/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Individuals under guardianship could face changes to their voter eligibility status.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) sponsors HF2188 that would clarify voting rights with regard to those under guardianship. She said the goal is to ensure that individuals who are not competent to vote are denied eligibility, while competent individuals aren’t denied.

The impetus for the bill stems from a 2010 incident in Crow Wing County in which a group of mentally disabled adults were allegedly manipulated into voting by their caregivers. The father of one of the affected individuals claims in an affidavit that his son is not mentally competent to vote and thus should have been denied.

Under a 2003 law, individuals under guardianship are presumed to be eligible to vote unless a court declares them otherwise. Kiffmeyer’s bill would reverse this by delineating between individuals under “limited guardianship,” who would be presumed to be eligible, and those under regular guardianship, who would be presumed to be ineligible.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill March 1 and referred it to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Brainerd) sponsors the companion, SF1753, which awaits action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.

Kiffmeyer said the bill is needed to clarify current law and to protect vulnerable adults from those who would use them to commit voter fraud. Opponents argue it’s unfair to presume people under guardianship to be incompetent, and said the burden should be on the courts to determine when they’re ineligible.

“Persons with disabilities, even when within the court process and under court supervision, should be presumptively thought to possess the right to vote,” said Bob McLeod, an attorney who was involved in drafting the 2003 legislation.

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