Proponents of laws limiting voting rights say they protect from fraud, but human rights advocates believe they're outdated and stigmatizing.
Roberta Blomster, 37, lives in a suburb with her parents and sister outside of St. Paul, MN, where she interns with Congressman Keith Ellison's campaign and testifies at her state capital on behalf of people with disabilities. During her free time she knits and spends time with her family and their two dogs.
Doctors have diagnosed her with mild mental retardation and epilepsy, and she is under limited guardianship, meaning that her mother manages her health and financial decisions.
The decision about whether to vote, however, is hers alone -- a reality that might be different if she lived in another state. She gets her news from the local paper, television and social media. "It feels wonderful knowing that I'm able to make informed decisions about who I'm voting for," she says. "It's a very satisfying feeling knowing that you're making a difference."
About 30 states and the District of Columbia have laws in their constitutions that can limit people with mental disabilities from voting if they have been ruled "mentally incapacitated," or incompetent, by a court. This means they have been determined unable to manage their own affairs or make specific life decisions, which, other than voting for candidates, can include managing their money, entering a contract, making medical decisions or caring for their children.