Topic: Political and economic
Article 5, section 2 of the Kansas Constitution now reads:
Disqualification to vote. 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.
The state constitution thus obviously authorizes the state legislature to disenfranchise anyone who is being treated for any mental illness diagnosed by a properly licensed medical provider--even common depression or "religious psychosis" (a daignosis some would apply to anyone who is serious about religion). But just as disturbing is the fact that this constitutional provision also includes all mental illnesses in the same class as crimes. That is, it treats all mental illnesses as ongoing crimes, punishable, should the legislature so choose, by the loss of the right to vote.
The mischief that might be possible under the current langauge in only a slightly more toxic political climate is also noteworthy. The same legislature that could deny psychiatric patients the vote because they are diagnosed (for legitimate therapeutic reasons) with schizophrenia or common depression could also deny the vote to citizens who are diagnosed by properly-qualified medical personnel for political reasons with such contrived maladies as "religious psychosis," "pathological socialist thought disorder" (remember the McCarthy era?) or "homosexual behavior disorder." I consider leaving this invitation in the state constitution dangerous.
However, Constitutional Amendment Question No. 2 will give Kansas voters the opportunity to remove the words "mental illness or" from this section of the Kansas Constitution, and so to remove mental illness from the same constitutional class as crime.
It's about time. Vote yes on Ballot Question No. 2.
Further information about the ballot question can be found in this Ballotpedia article.