Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wards demand right to vote / Adult guardianship system's denial of privilege incites legal battles

The Yomiuri Shimbun Is it unconstitutional to take away the voting rights of adults who are placed under guardianship due to a disability or dementia?

The Public Offices Election Law stipulates that when an adult is placed under guardianship, he or she loses the right to vote. The first judicial ruling on this regulation will be handed down Thursday at the Tokyo District Court.

Is it legal for the adult guardianship system, which is supposed to protect the rights of the handicapped, to deprive the individuals subject to the system of their voting rights? Lawsuits similar to Thursday's case are currently under way at three other district courts.

"I want to vote again with my father and mother," said 50-year-old Takumi Nagoya from Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Jan. 24. She clearly voiced her opinion in the No. 103 courtroom at the Tokyo District Court when presiding Judge Makoto Jyozuka asked her to speak at the close of a 1-1/2-year-long lawsuit.

According to her father, Seikichi, 81, although Takumi suffers from Down syndrome and has a moderate intellectual impairment, she can read simple kanji and has a job labeling sundry goods. Since turning 20, she has always read official election newsletters and had gone to vote. When an official at the voting station thanked her for taking the trouble, Takumi looked proud, her father said.

Seikichi decided to use the adult guardian system because he was worried about property management for Takumi, and was appointed in February 2007 as her guardian by a family court. Since then, Takumi has not been able to vote.

Seikichi has apologized to her, saying he meant to protect her rights but in the end her rights were taken away. "It's OK," Takumi reportedly said to him.

The guardian system started in 2000 to replace the former incompetency system, with the aim of supporting people who do not have adequate capacities to make judgments due to a disability or dementia. There are three types of arrangements according to a person's abilities: guardianship, curatorship and assistance. Only the guardianship category effectively requires wards to abdicate their right to vote. About 136,000 people had guardians as of the end of 2012.

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Wards demand right to vote / Adult guardianship system's denial of privilege incites legal battles


Nancy said...

I think taking away the right to vote is the least worry of guardianship wards. Taking away their freedom and decision making is the issue.

StandUp said...

While I agree with your overall thought, Nancy, it's about more than that. The right to vote is a consitutional right; therefore, when they take that away, they're chipping away at the Constitution