Sen. Block bill protecting voting rights for individuals under conservatorship

SACRAMENTO – Senate Bill 589 which would protect voting rights for people under conservatorship was signed today by the governor.

Senator Marty Block (D-39), who authored the bill, said that under his legislation people under conservatorship would be presumed competent to vote. “I am especially happy that the governor signed SB 589 in a year marked by the 50th anniversary of so many historic civil rights victories,” Block said.

Under SB 589, courts could void the right to vote only if clear and convincing evidence is presented that the conservatee is incapable of expressing a desire to vote with reasonable accommodations. The measure would also align California with the due process protections and standards recommended by the American Bar Association.

“Conservatorship should not mean disenfranchisement,” Block asked. “Many have risked and lost their lives for the right to vote in our country,” he stated. “Voting is a precious right and privilege that we can and should fully extend to those under conservatorship,” said Block.

Complaints of voter disenfranchisement in California have spurred a federal investigation. In May, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was probing allegations that the state is wrongfully denying voting rights to conservatees.

In addition to the ACLU, SB 589 was supported by many disability advocates including Disability Rights California, the Association of Regional Center Agencies, the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, the Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration, Disability Rights Advocates and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. It was also supported by the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials. The bill received bipartisan support in the legislature.

[Photo credit: ACLU]

Dan Morain: Stepping toward full voting rights (The Fresno Bee, August 2015)

Victory! New Voting Protections for 50,000 Californians Living with Disabilities (ACLU, October 2015)

Stepping toward full voting rights (The Sacramento Bee, August 2015)