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Kansas Voting Disqualification Amendment, Constitutional Amendment Question 2 (2010)

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The Kansas Voting Disqualification Amendment, also known as Constitutional Amendment Question 2, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment in the state of Kansas, where it was approved.Approveda The measure would eliminate mental illness as a voting disqualification. According to supporters of the amendment, a "mental illness" category was too general and affected as much as 25 percent of Kansas residents.[1]

Proponents also argued that disqualifying those with mental illnesses violated the United States Constitution and other laws that prohibited discriminating the disabled. The Senate Judiciary Committee introduced the measure.[2][3]

Election results

See also: 2010 ballot measure election results

Official election results for the measure follow:

Constitutional Amendment Question 2 (Voting Disqualification)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 503,143 62.4%
No302,96637.5%

Results via the Kansas Secretary of State Official Vote Totals.

Text of measure

Ballot title

The ballot title that voters saw on their ballot read:[1]

Explanatory statement. This amendment would repeal the authority of the legislature to exclude persons with mental illness from voting.
A vote for this amendment would ensure that the right to vote for persons with mental illness cannot be taken away by the legislature.
A vote against this amendment would continue the current authority of the legislature to take away the right to vote for persons with mental illness.

Summary

The summary of the measure read:

A proposition to amend section 2 of article 5 of the constitution of the state of Kansas, relating to qualification of voters.[4]

Constitutional changes

The measure was proposed to amend Section 2 of Article 5 of the Kansas Constitution to read as follows:

§ 2. Disqualification to vote. The legislature may, by law, exclude persons from voting because of commitment to a jail or penal institution. No person convicted of a felony under the laws of any state or of the United States, unless pardoned or restored to his civil rights, shall be qualified to vote.[4]

The previous text read as follows:

The legislature may, by law, exclude persons from voting because of mental illness or commitment to a jail or penal institution. No person convicted of a felony under the laws of any state or of the United States, unless pardoned or restored to his civil rights, shall be qualified to vote.

Support

Supporters

  • The "Yes On 2" campaign was the main campaign in support of the measure. The campaign was started by the Kansas Mental Health Coalition (KMHC). Dr. Roy Menninger, chair of the KMHC, stated, “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."[5] See video from 'Yes on 2' rally in Overland Park.
  • Andrew Gray of the Libertarian Party of Kansas candidate for Kansas Governor announced his endorsement of the measure, stating “I encourage Kansas voters to affirm our state’s commitment to the right to keep and bear arms,and to acknowledge the responsibility of Kansans to treat each other as capable adults and respect the liberty of others by voting in support of this amendment.”[6]
  • The Unified Government endorsed the measure on September 30, 2010 when the commissioners of the group voted unanimously to support the proposal. According to Mark Wiebe, of Wyandot Center, when speaking to commissioners to back the measure, 25 percent of Kansas residents had a variety of mental illness problems. Wiebe stated, "(The constitution's) language serves as threat to a very large group of Kansans. These people are our friends. They are everyday Kansans. They have jobs, pay taxes and vote."[7]
  • According to Amy Campbell, executive director of KHMC, “A big part of the ‘Yes on 2’ campaign is battling the misperceptions about mental illness. 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.”[5]
  • Gerry Lichti, head of the Wichita chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, stated about mentally ill voters, "These folks are members of our community, they're raising families, they are employed, they are working hard in community organizations. They're like the rest of us. There's no difference.”[8]
  • Mark Wiebe, Director of Public Affairs at Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare, argued for the measure, stating, "We need to blow the cobwebs off the Constitution and remove this threat that exists to the voting rights of every law-abiding Kansan. One in five Kansans can be expected to have a mental disorder some time in a given year.”[9]

Arguments

  • The "Yes on 2" campaign stated that if the measure passed, it would protect over 500,000 of the state's residents' right to vote. The group cited that the U.S. Surgeon General found that 1 in 5 of all Americans have some sort of mental health issue, thus their calculation of 500,000.[5]
  • The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) stated that many Kansans had mental issues, including soldiers returning home from military conflict with PTSD and victims of sexual assault who experienced mental health issues. According to Rick Cagan, executive director of NAMI Kansas stated, "Mental Illness is a natural part of the human condition that impacts so many lives. 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.”[5]

Opposition

There was no known opposing campaign for Question 2.

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Kansas ballot measures, 2010

Support

  • The Wichita Eagle called for the passage of the measure in an editorial, claiming, "Kansas doesn’t ban people with mental illnesses from voting. But believe it or not, the state’s Constitution allows the Legislature to do that, which is discriminatory and offensive. Voters should approve a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would eliminate mental illness as a possible voting disqualification and protect the right to vote."[10]
  • The Kansas City Star recommended a 'yes' vote on the measure.[11]

Path to the ballot

The measure was approved by the Kansas State Senate on February 16, 2010 by a vote of 38-1. The next step for the measure is an approval of two-thirds of the Kansas House of Representatives. The only Senator who voted against the amendment was Karin Brownlee who stated there is no need to fix a problem that doesn't exist. The House planned to vote on the measure on April 29, 2010 to decide whether or not to send it to the ballot. On April 30, 2010, the measure was passed to the ballot by the House with a unanimous vote of 122-0.[12][13][3]

A 2/3rds vote in both chambers of the Kansas State Legislature is required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. Kansas is one of 17 states that requires this process.

Similar measures

Voters in Maine and Washington have voted on similar measures in past years:

See also

External links

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References