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Lawsuit Aims to Let Hoosiers With Mental Illness Vote

A lawsuit has been filed in Indiana to allow those who live in mental institutions to vote during the upcoming election. (Portercounty.org)
A lawsuit has been filed in Indiana to allow those who live in mental institutions to vote during the upcoming election. (Portercounty.org)
March 4, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS - Voting is on the minds of a lot of Hoosiers because of the upcoming presidential race and all the attention it's getting, but an advocacy group says there are some people who may not be able to cast a ballot.

According to a law that has been on the books for years in Indiana, people who live in mental institutions can't use that address to register to vote, even if they've lived there for years. The ACLU and Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services have sued, calling that law unconstitutional.

The latter group's executive director, Dawn Adams, said she didn't even know the law existed until the clerk of Jefferson County started removing voter registrations from anyone living at Madison State Hospital.

"Some of these individuals have lived in the facilities for years, and this has turned into their home," she said. "To then be denied the right to vote where they live puts that undue burden on them to try and find an address that they can use, because this is the only address that they have."

Adams said she is afraid it will be a precedent, and anyone with mental illness in Indiana could be denied the right to vote. She said she thinks the matter will be resolved in court before the registration deadline for the May 3 primary in Indiana.

Adams doesn't believe the clerk in Jefferson County is being malicious by following this law, but she said it's discriminatory against people with mental illness.

"The right to vote is the great equalizer," she said. "Every single person has that one vote, and to take that away from someone, that's just unconscionable."

The lawsuit targets the state of Indiana, the clerk of Jefferson County, secretary of state and members of the Indiana Election Commission.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN