“Maine Referendum Spotlights Voting Rights for People Under Guardianship “


Since its drafting in 1819, Maine’s constitution has barred people who are “under guardianship for reasons of mental illness” from voting in state and local elections. The state legislature tried to end that exclusion decades ago, putting constitutional amendments on the ballot in 1997 and 2000, but voters rejected the changes both times. A non-profit organization tasked by the state with protecting disabled residents eventually sued, arguing that the prohibition disenfranchised residents in violation of the U.S. Constitution. This led to a favorable federal court ruling in 2001 that declared Maine’s exclusion unconstitutional.

This fall, Maine voters will again decide whether to scrub that exclusion from their state’s constitution, echoing the court ruling. Question 8, one of several constitutional amendments on the state’s Nov. 7 ballot, asks voters if they want to “remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting.”  

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