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Disability Advocates Want To Raise Awareness Of New Voting Rights Law

Photo caption:

Photo by Ebone Monet

Disability rights advocates from Spectrum Group protest outside the San Diego Superior Court building on August 23, 2016. The group wants California judges to notify people with disabilities who have been disqualified from voting that they can regain their rights under a new law.

Disability Advocates Want More Notice Of Voting Rights Law


Thomas Coleman, legal director, Spectrum Institute


Disability rights advocates are pushing California courts and nonprofits to spread awareness of a 2015 law that can restore the right to vote to those who have lost it in court proceedings.

SB 589, which took effect in January, makes it harder for people under conservatorship to lose the right to vote in the first place. Conservatees are now presumed competent to vote unless a judge finds they can’t communicate a desire to vote. For those who already had their right to vote taken away, they can submit a written or verbal request to the court expressing their desire to vote and have it restored.

But disability rights groups are concerned that many people under conservatorship don’t know about the new law and could miss the Oct. 24 deadline to register for the November election.

The U.S. Department of Justice is already investigating whether California improperly took away the right to vote from people with disabilities before SB 589. But the Spectrum Institute, which represents disabled clients in voting rights cases, has filed a complaint with the agency asking it to require the California court system to send out notices to those in conservatorships about the law.

The San Diego Regional Center, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities, plans to send a letter to about 1,750 clients this week explaining the legal change.

“We’re gearing up our efforts as we speak,” executive director Carlos Flores said.

Thomas Coleman, the Spectrum Group’s legal director, joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on how people with disabilities can regain their right to vote.


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