Fading Minds and Hanging Chads: Alzheimer’s Disease and the Right to Vote

David A. Drachman, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Document Type Article


As America’s population ages, more people will fall victim to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease that bring progressive and inexorable dementia. What will happen to the millions of men and women who have taken the right to vote for granted, but gradually become cognitively impaired? Inconsistent, often archaic state laws will provide little guidance, says the author; illnesses leading to dementia are seldom recognized in state statutes. Nor can we expect that the votes of the impaired will be randomly distributed, neutralizing their effect on election outcomes, because several significant causes of biased voting may tend to channel their votes in one direction. The author argues that now is the time to fashion realistic guidelines for dealing with the cognitively compromised voter.