Nevada voters to decide on amendment related to constitutional language related to mental illness, blindness, and deafness

An amendment that would revise constitutional language relating to public entities for individuals with mental illness, blindness, and deafness has been certified for the ballot in Nevada, and will go to voters on Nov. 5, 2024.

Currently, Article 13, Section 1 of the Nevada Constitution reads: “Institutions for the benefit of the Insane, Blind and Deaf and Dumb, and such other benevolent institutions as the public good may require, shall be fostered and supported by the State, subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by law.”

If approved, this amendment would change the word institutions to entities, and would also change the Insane, Blind and Deaf and Dumb to persons with significant mental illness, persons who are blind or visually impaired, persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and persons with intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities.

Nevada Assemblywoman Robin Titus (R), one of the primary sponsors of the amendment, said, “I am aware that when the Nevada Constitution was written, different terminologies were used to describe persons with disabilities or a mental illness. However, more than 156 years after Nevada was admitted into the Union, it is time to give these words a more critical look. We should change them to contemporary language that is not deemed to be discriminatory or narrow.”

The amendment was referred to the ballot by the Nevada State Legislature. In Nevada, in order for the legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot, each chamber of the legislature must approve the amendment by a simple majority in two consecutive sessions. The amendment, Assembly Joint Resolution 1, passed the Assembly by 42-0 on April 13, 2021, and then passed 21-0 in the Senate on May 17, 2021. In the following legislative session, the amendment passed the Assembly by 41-0 on March 29, 2023, then passed the Senate by 20-0 on May 26, 2023.

As of May 31, there are four measures certified for the Nov. 5, 2024, ballot in Nevada. Three measures are constitutional amendments referred by the state legislature, and one is a constitutional amendment that qualified for the ballot by a successful citizen initiative.

In 2024, voters in North Dakota will decide on a similar state constitutional amendment, which would change words such as insane to individuals with mental illness and deaf and dumb to deaf and hard of hearing in the North Dakota Constitution.