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Public Policy Update: Rights and Justice Issues

Eugenics Compensation

From 1929 to 1974, the Eugenics Board of North Carolina reviewed petitions for sterilizations, and sterilizations were ordered in more than 90 percent of the cases before the board. Researchers estimate that more than 7,600 people were sterilized in the state during that period, ranking North Carolina third among states operating eugenics sterilization programs.

Over the lifetime of the Eugenics Sterilization Program, approximately 71 percent of people sterilized were classified as “feebleminded” – predominantly people with intellectual disabilities – 24 percent were classified as mentally ill, and 5 percent were classified as epileptic.

This year, the final negotiated budget between the House, Senate and governor included the long overdue funding for eugenics compensation. The budget provides $10 million in one-time funding for victims of the forced sterilization program.

Incapacity to Proceed

S45 Incapacity to Proceed Amendments: This legislation targets closing the revolving door that exists for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities who are deemed to be incapable to proceed to trial for both misdemeanor and criminal offenses. It allows for procedures for the judge to examine information related to the individual’s capacity while protecting the individual’s health care information from the public. It allows for a process to dismiss charges when the individual has been in a facility for a length of time equal to or in excess of the maximum imprisonment for the charges.

Voter ID – VIVA:

H589 VIVA/Election Reform (Voter ID Bill): A signature initiative of legislative leadership was to pass a comprehensive Voter ID bill and an election reform bill. Throughout the evolution of this legislation, disability advocates worked to ensure that the right to vote for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities not be restricted in a manner that would cause undue hardship or burden. There are two distinct sections to H589, and ASNC will publish more complete information on the ASNC website that will help to inform individuals with disabilities and their families of the changes in the law, how to access identification, and how to ensure they are able to exercise their rights to vote.

State-Issued ID and Supporting Documentation: The final bill includes requirements that any state-issued ID be free and any needed supporting documentation such as a birth certificates or marriage licenses also be free. It also requires state assistance in locating those documents.

Acceptable ID: The final bill had a more restrictive list than the introduced bill. That list includes a valid driver’s license, valid state-issued photo ID, US Military ID, tribal ID, a US passport, a Veterans ID card or a valid driver’s license from another state but only if within 90 days of the election. It does not include identification issued by schools. A specific section dealing with curbside voting permits voters to use either an approved ID or a Help America Vote Document. Advocates worked hard to keep curbside voting more accessible to people with disabilities.

Guardianship and Voting: In the last hours of the session, very restrictive language was placed into this legislation dealing with people adjudicated incompetent (those with guardianship). It also addressed whether those who were compensated for services to the individual could help that person as they vote. ASNC urged families and individuals to contact their legislators about this part of the bill, section 34, and an amendment was introduced to study concerns regarding protections for assistance to voters with disabilities.

The bill also provides more access to absentee ballots for people living in residential facilities, shortens early voting, eliminates same-day voting, and eliminates pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. Although we are concerned about many sections of this bill, we are appreciative that the restrictive section 34 was placed into a study, and other issues raised by disability advocates were addressed in the bill.

If you have questions about public policy issues, please contact Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at 919-865-5068 or jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org.

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