With the presidential election just months away, the U.S. Department of Justice is warning that people with disabilities should not be kept from voting due to their guardianship status or for other reasons.

The federal agency recently updated its guide clarifying the rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws to cast their ballot.

The guidance outlines the legal protections in place to ensure that people with disabilities can register to vote, access their polling place and voting systems and receive assistance from the person of their choice, all in a manner that’s free from discrimination.

Notably, the Justice Department points out that guardianship is not a valid reason to keep someone from voting.

“The ADA … prohibits a state from categorically disqualifying individuals who have intellectual or mental health disabilities from registering to vote or from voting because of their disability or guardianship status,” the guidance states. “Further, a state may not subject groups of people with disabilities — including individuals who are under guardianship — to a higher standard than that imposed on other voters for demonstrating the capacity to vote.”

Voters who need assistance casting their ballot due to a disability have the right to receive help from the person of their choice with requesting, completing and returning their ballot, the Justice Department said, whether that be in-person or via absentee or mail-in voting.

The Justice Department also notes that every polling place must allow service animals and offer an accessible method of voting.

The disability guidance was released as part of a broader package of resources designed to inform all voters of their rights and help state and local election officials understand their obligations.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, the right from which all others flow,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The Justice Department is using every available authority to defend that right, both from efforts to undermine voting rights and from efforts to threaten and intimidate those who administer our elections. These updated resources will help voters understand their rights and assist public officials in fulfilling their duties.”

While voting accessibility has increased in recent decades, a report released in April from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Rutgers University found that people with disabilities were more than three times as likely as others to report voting difficulties in 2022. As a result, people with disabilities remain less likely to vote.

Alexia Kemerling who coordinates REV UP, a grassroots effort organized by the American Association of People with Disabilities to encourage voting, said she was especially pleased to see the Justice Department address the rights of people with disabilities to receive assistance.

“Since 2021, 13 states have passed laws that criminalize voter assistance. Even in cases where the law provides an exception for voters with disabilities, like SB 1 in Alabama, we know that these harmful policies will create a chilling effect ultimately leading to increased difficulty for voters to find assistance voting or to outright disenfranchisement,” Kemerling said. “Seeing the guidance from the DOJ feels like proof that disabled advocates are making an impact and that a true accessible democracy is within reach.”