Voting rights for persons with serious mental illnesses in the U.S.

Objective: Voting is a fundamental right in democratic societies. Despite this fact, persons with serious mental illnesses (SMIs) frequently encounter barriers to exercising this right. The purposes of this Brief Report are to emphasize the importance of electoral participation in this population, to describe common barriers, and to outline relevant federal and state laws. Method: We conducted a review of the relevant psychological and legal literature. Findings: Due to the structural barriers that they encounter, individuals with SMIs are less likely to vote than the general population. Federal laws that protect voting rights for persons with disabilities are the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans With Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Help America Vote Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the National Voter Registration Act. State laws concerning voter competence, photo IDs, voter challenges, and incarceration practices can affect the electoral participation of persons with SMIs. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: We offer recommendations for mental health professionals and other stakeholders who are interested in addressing barriers and engaging in advocacy efforts that might increase voting opportunities among persons diagnosed with SMIs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)