Senate panel agrees No place for idiot in constitution

This long overdue action is a welcome sign of hope. Now it needs to be approved in November by the voters.  We encourage you to read SCR134.

Senate panel agrees: No place for ‘idiot’ in constitution

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

BY SUSAN K. LIVIO, Star-Ledger Staff

As a person with a developmental disability, Todd Emmons said registering to vote was one of the most empowering acts he ever made to bolster his independence.

That’s why Emmons strongly urged the Senate State Government Committee yesterday to remove from New Jersey’s constitution and law books the outdated and degrading language that says “no idiot or insane person” can vote.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of scrapping those words.

“Voting is one of the most important rights we have,” said Emmons, who belongs to an advocacy group called the Seeking Ways Out Together Team, which encourages people to leave institutional care and live in community housing.

After he registered to vote, Emmons said, he “felt like people saw me as an equal, a regular person like themselves. Staff at institutions said I was not smart enough, but I proved them wrong by learning to vote and getting my high school diploma.”

The language in the state constitution undermines all people with disabilities, he said, and passing the legislation “would be a big step in ensuring equal rights for all New Jersey citizens.”

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