Voting and the Cognitively Impaired

27 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2011

See all articles by Richard J. Bonnie

Richard J. Bonnie

University of Virginia - School of Law

Date Written: 2004


This paper addresses an emerging policy problem: participation in the electoral process by citizens with dementia. At present, health care professionals, family caregivers, and long-term care staff lack adequate guidance to decide whether individuals with dementia should be precluded from, or assisted in, casting a ballot. Voting by persons with dementia raises a series of important questions about the autonomy of individuals with dementia, the integrity of the electoral process, and the prevention of fraud. Three subsidiary issues warrant special attention: development of a method to assess the capacity to vote; identification of the appropriate kinds of assistance to enable persons with cognitive impairment to vote; and formulation of uniform and workable policies for voting in long-term care settings. In some instances, extrapolation from existing policies and research permits reasonable recommendations to guide policy and practice. However, in other instances additional research is necessary.

Suggested Citation

Bonnie, Richard J., Voting and the Cognitively Impaired (2004). Available at SSRN: or

Richard J. Bonnie (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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