Yes on 2 Campaign Protects Voting Rights:
Coalition Pushes Constitutional Amendment in Nov. 2 Election
Did you know that the Kansas Constitution sanctions discrimination against all people with a mental health issue?
Probably not. In fact, the issue had basically flown under the political radar until 2008. That’s when a group of mental health consumers and advocates learned that the state constitution allows the Legislature to take away the right to vote from this broad class of people with disabilities.
To address this issue, the Kansas Mental Health Coalition (KMHC) is conducting a statewide “Yes on 2” public education campaign to protect the right to vote for all Kansans. Its goal is to convince voters to support Constitutional Amendment #2 on the ballot.
“Voting Yes on Constitutional Amendment 2 in the November 2nd General Election will protect the voting rights of our friends, family members and neighbors with mental health issues once and for all,” said Dr. Roy Menninger, Chair of the KMHC.
At issue is the fact that the Kansas Constitution contains outdated language that allows the Legislature to take away the right to vote from any Kansan with a “mental illness.” Kansans with mental illness are the only group of people with disabilities whose voting rights are discriminated against in the Kansas Constitution.
And it’s a large group. The U.S. Surgeon General has found that 1 in 5 (20%) of all Americans has some sort of mental health issue. According to the KMHC, if their “Yes on 2” public education campaign is successful, it will protect the right to vote for over 500,000 Kansans.
The “Yes on 2” campaign also stresses that Constitutional Amendment #2 potentially protects the right to vote for all Kansans. This is because “mental illness” is such an incredibly broad term that it encompasses conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) or many normally acquired bi-products of the aging process, like Alzheimer’s.
“If we live long enough, it is quite possible that each of us could acquire a mental health problem,” said Dr. Menninger, “which is why the ‘Yes on 2’ campaign needs to win at the ballot box.”
The “Yes on 2” campaign argues that it is wrong for the Kansas Constitution to allow voting rights to be stripped from everyday, law abiding and patriotic taxpayers who happen to have mental health issues. What’s more, campaign organizers say, it is unconscionable to take away the right to vote from so many Kansans.
Among those Kansans: soldiers returning home from military conflict with PTSD and victims of sexual assault who experience mental health issues. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) studies have found that nearly 20% of all soldiers come home with PTSD, and 33% of sexual assault survivors received professional counseling for mental health issues arising from their assault.
“Mental Illness is a natural part of the human condition that impacts so many lives,” said Rick Cagan, Executive Director of NAMI Kansas. “A ‘Yes’ vote on Amendment #2 protects YOUR right to vote and the right to vote of all Kansans – your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers.”
Organizers of the “Yes on 2” campaign also point out that this should be a non-controversial, non-partisan issue. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor have endorsed it, and every State Representative and State Senator has either voted for it or endorsed it.
In order to provide equal time, we tried to contact some organization to speak out against this Constitutional Amendment, but we literally could not find anyone. There was no organized opposition as this Amendment made its way through the legislative process, and there remains no organized opposition. However, the “Yes on 2” campaign believes that their biggest challenge is not what groups or individuals may say publicly, but rather what people may think privately in the voting booth. This is because the term “mental illness,” unfortunately, still carries a negative stigma.
“A big part of the ‘Yes on 2’ campaign is battling the misperceptions about mental illness,” said Amy Campbell, Executive Director of the KHMC. “This is really about educating the public to understand that people with mental illness are everyday people – they pay taxes, work jobs, and raise families. The Kansas Legislature should not be able to take away their or your right to vote.”
Ultimately, a vote of the people will decide the issue, which will appear on the November 2nd General Election ballot. According to the KMHC if a majority of voters vote “yes” on Constitutional Amendment #2, then the right to vote for all Kansans with mental health issues will be protected—now and in the future.
“We encourage every voter to go to www.protectvotingrights.com to find out more about this important issue and then Vote Yes on Amendment #2 in the November 2nd General Election,” said Dr. Menninger.
2011 DRC Priorities and Objectives
DRC has undergone an extensive strategic planning procees. After receiveing significant input from the disability community, DRC is please to announce the following 2011 priorities and objectives. For a more detailed description of these objectives please go www.drckansas.org
Priority 1: Serious Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation
DRC will provide advocacy, including investigations and monitoring, for the disability rights of Kansans who are at risk of, or have experienced serious abuse, neglect or exploitation.
Advocacy Services under Priority 1: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 300 service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 1.1: Investigating Serious Abuse or Neglect
Objective 1.2: Monitoring of Institutional Settings
Objective 1.3: Protecting Kansans
from Seclusion and Restraint
Objective 1.4: Reviewing and Advocating on Institutional Surveys
Objective 1.5: Holding Abusers
Objective 1.6: Supporting Victims
of Financial Exploitation
Objective 1.7: Protecting DRC’s Access Authority – Impact Case
Objective 1.8: Investigating Systems Change Options on Seclusion and Restraint Policies – Potential Impact Case
Priority 2: Community Based Services & Health Care
DRC will provide advocacy for the disability rights of Kansans to access community-based services, supports and health care, including Medicaid, Medicare, mental health services, long-term care, assistive technology, independent living and home and community-based services.
Advocacy Services under Priority 2: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 340 service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 2.1: Advocating for those with Autism, Aspergers & the Dually Diagnosed
Objective 2.2: Defending Against Mental Health Service Denials
Objective 2.3: Safeguarding Medicaid for Children and Youth under 21
Objective 2.4: Avoiding Institutionalization by promoting community-based services & supports
Objective 2.5: Advocating for Consumers Receiving Independent Living Services Funded Under the Rehab Act
Objective 2.6: Advocating for Assistive Technology
Objective 2.7: Promoting Individual Justice Plans
Objective 2.8: Engaging in Dually Diagnosed Systems Change – Impact Case
Objective 2.9: Investigating Systems Change Efforts to Challenge the “Underserved” Waiting List – Potential Impact Case
Objective 2.10: Challenging AT for Educational/Home Use – Impact Case
Objective 2.11: Investigating Denial of AT for State Workers – Potential Impact Case
Priority 3: Employment
DRC will provide advocacy for the disability rights of Kansans who are experiencing barriers to employment.
Advocacy Services under Priority 3: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 205 service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 3.1: Ensuring Employment Accommodations
Objective 3.2: Fighting Against Employment Discrimination
Objective 3.3: Advocating for Vocational Rehabilitation Services in the IPE (Individual Plan for Employment)
Objective 3.4: Amending the IPE
Objective 3.5: Combating Improper Denials of VR Services
Objective 3.6: Advocating for those seeking Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Objective 3.7: Advocating for those seeking employment services
Objective 3.8: Combating Systemic Refusals to Provide Accommodations – Impact Case
Objectives 3.9: Investigating Systems Change Efforts to Challenge State Budget and Service Cuts – Potential Impact Case
Objective 3.10: Challenging Arbitrary Funding Limits –Impact Case
Priority 4: Community Integration
DRC will provide advocacy for the disability rights of Kansans residing in institutions, and other restrictive settings, to assert their right to access appropriate services and supports in the most integrated setting.
Advocacy Services Under Priority 4: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 30 service requests under this priority when the person is residing in an institution, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 4.1: Asserting the Right of Money Follows the Person
Objective 4.2: Enforcing Community Integration
Objective 4.3: Advocating for Effective Discharge Planning in PRTFs
Objective 4.4: Asserting Olmstead Rights – Impact Case
Objective 4.5: Investigating Bottlenecks in Community Integration – Potential Impact Case
Priority 5: Accessibility
DRC will provide advocacy for the disability rights of Kansans to remove physical and program barriers to an accessible society by protecting their rights under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), the Rehabilitation Act, voting rights and other applicable disability rights laws.
Advocacy Services under Priority 5: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 110 service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 5.1: Ensuring Architectural Accessibility
Objective 5.2: Advocating for Kansans who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing in Accessibility Issues
Objective 5.3: Advocating for Kansans who are Blind in Accessibility Issues
Objective 5.4: Representing Voters with Disabilities in HAVA Administrative Appeals
Objective 5.5: Fighting for Systems Change in Title III Rights – Impact Case
Objective 5.6: Investigating ADA Compliance in Rural Kansas Municipalities – Potential Impact Case
Objective 5.7: Ensuring Polling Place Accessibility – Impact Activity
Objective 5.8: Investigating Voting Rights Cases – Potential Impact Activity
Priority 6: Special Education
DRC will provide advocacy for Kansas students to enforce their right to special education and related services in the least restrictive environment and protect against inappropriate discipline involving behavior, which is a manifestation of the student’s disability.
Advocacy Services under Priority 6: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 180 service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 6.1: Protecting Students from Seclusion and Restraint in Schools
Objective 6.2: Preventing Suspension for Behavior Related to Disability
Objective 6.3: Stopping Change of Placement to More Restrictive Setting
Objective 6.4: Preventing the School to Prison Pipeline – Impact Case
Objective 6.5: Investigating Reductions in Special Education Services – Potential Impact Case
Objective 6.6: Investigating Systems Change Opportunities for Transition Age Youth – Potential Impact Case
Priority 7: Fair Housing
DRC will provide advocacy for the disability rights of Kansans whose rights to housing have been violated under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Rehabilitation Act or other applicable disability housing laws.
Advocacy Services under Priority 7: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 120 total service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 7.1: Overturning Evictions for Behavior Due to Disability
Objective 7.2: Ensuring Accommodations & Modifications in Housing
Objective 7.3: Preventing Denial of Housing Due to Disability
Objective 7.4: Combating Housing Discrimination Based on Disability
Objective 7.5: Stopping Widespread Discrimination Against People with Disabilities in Housing – Impact Case
Objective 7.6: Investigating Subsidized Housing for Accessibility Requirements – Potential Impact Case
Priority 8: Accountability of Guardians
& Other Legal Decision Makers
DRC will provide advocacy for the disability rights of Kansans to pursue alternatives to guardianship/conservatorship, to end guardianship/conservatorship when it is no longer necessary, to change guardians/conservators in cases of abuse or neglect, or to hold other legal decision makers (representative payees, trustees, etc.) accountable for violating the rights of the person with a disability.
Advocacy Services under Priority 8: DRC will provide legally based advocacy for 65 service requests under this priority, including but not limited to the following cases:
Objective 8.1: Preventing Unnecessary Guardianships/Conservatorships
Objective 8.2: Terminating Existing Guardianships/Conservatorships
Objective 8.3: Holding Representative Payees Accountable
Objective 8.4: Challenging the Overuse of Guardianships/Conservatorships for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care – Impact Case
Objective 8.5: Investigating Withhold/Withdraw Provisions of Guardianship Law – Potential Impact Case
Priority 9: Education & Outreach to the Public and Policymakers
DRC will outreach to and educate the public and policymakers on disability issues in order to improve services in the most integrated setting as well as protect, advance and enhance the rights of Kansans with disabilities.
Objective 9.1 – Engaging the Public through Outreach, Education and Partnerships
Objective 9.2 – Educating Policymakers, Systems Change & Public Policy Advocacy