Vote for America's Mental Health in 2012

With all of the changes in health care and voting laws happening at the state and federal level, it’s more important than ever for the mental health community to be involved in this year’s election.  We have prepared this voter guide to help mental health advocates ensure that people with mental health and substance use conditions feel empowered and able to vote; that candidates at the federal, state, and local levels are considering the concerns of the mental health community; and to encourage all voters to ultimately Vote for America’s Mental Health in 2012.  This guide provides:

  • Voter registration information
  • A “November Elections Action Checklist”
  • Questions for Town Hall & Candidate Forums
  • A “Letter to the Editor” & Talking Points guide
  • Relevant websites & additional Resources
  • A review of party platforms, and more…

Know Your Rights: Voting Registration Information

Over the past three years, troublesome restrictions have been placed on the voting process including barriers to registration and voter identification requirements.  The Brennan Center for Justice warns the wave of new state voting laws and requirements have the potential to substantially affect the 2012 electoral map.  Knowing your voting rights will help make sure you can vote in November.  Since more than 20 percent of Americans have some type of mental health condition during any given year, it is crucial that members of our community understand that individuals with mental health and substance use conditions and other disabilities have the right to vote and have the right to assistance in voting.  The National Disability Rights Network has compiled two useful informational fact sheets for voters with behavioral health conditions and disabilities that can be obtained by clicking here and here.  

Mental health consumers need to be aware of the significant new voting laws that have been established.  These laws are estimated to make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to register or vote in the upcoming election. The Brennan Center’s report “Voting Law Changes in 2012” outlines the primary changes in voter laws for the upcoming election, which include:  

  • Photo ID laws: The number of states with laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification has quadrupled in 2011. Photo ID bills were signed into law in seven states —Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin—and passed by referendum in Mississippi. To put this into context, 11 percent, or 21 million Americans, do not possess a government-issued photo ID.
  • Proof of citizenship laws: Laws that require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote passed in Alabama, Kansas, and Tennessee. Since 2008, the number of states with such a requirement has more than doubled.
  • Making voter registration harderAt least fourteen states introduced bills to end highly popular Election Day and same-day voter registration, limit voter registration mobilization efforts, and reduce other registration opportunities. Florida, Illinois and Texas passed laws restricting voter registration drives, and Florida and Wisconsin passed laws making it more difficult for people who move to stay registered and vote. Ohio ended its weeklong period of same-day voter registration.
  • Reducing early and absentee days: At least nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia succeeded in enacting bills reducing early voting.
  • Making it harder to restore voting rights: Two states—Florida and Iowa—reversed prior executive actions that made it easier for citizens with past felony convictions to restore their voting rights, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters. In effect, both states now permanently disenfranchise most citizens with past felony convictions.

Legislation is still pending in many states, however, and several other states are already facing legal challenges to the laws. It is essential that behavioral health consumers, community stakeholders, and YOU are actively aware of changes in voting laws in your state!

For the latest updates on YOUR states voting laws, visit The Fair Elections Network whose mission is to remove barriers to voting and improve election administration across the United States.

Deadlines to register before the general election vary state to state, but most are coming up within the next several weeks.  For specific information on registering to vote, re-registering, and registration deadlines in YOUR state, visit:

Tell Your Friends and Stay Informed

Tell your friends to cast their vote for America’s mental health this November.

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