Maine’s referendum election is November 7th, 2023. Voters will have the opportunity to decide on eight items: four Citizen Initiatives and four Constitutional Amendments. We are getting lots of questions here at Disability Rights Maine about Question 8. So, what is Question 8?
Question 8 is an amendment to Maine’s Constitution that asks voters, “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting for Governor, Senators and Representatives, which the United States District Court for the District of Maine found violates the United States Constitution and federal law?”
In 2001, Disability Rights Maine sued on behalf of three individuals under guardianship who were prohibited from voting because they had labels of mental illness. DRM argued the provision in the Maine Constitution that prevented them from voting was discriminatory, as individuals under guardianship for reasons of mental illness were the only group of people under guardianship to be automatically disenfranchised. The court agreed and found this provision to be in violation of both the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And, while this provision was deemed unconstitutional 22 years ago, the language remains as part of the Constitution.
In the 2023 legislative session, the Maine Legislature passed a resolution amending the Maine Constitution by the required two-thirds majority. The final step to remove this provision from the Maine Constitution requires approval by Maine’s voters. Proponents of Question 8 are asking voters to remove the provision, in accordance with the federal court’s ruling. A “yes” vote is in favor of removing the provision from the Maine Constitution. A “no” vote is against removing the provision from the Maine Constitution.
It is important to note that if Question 8 fails to pass, nothing will change. The voting rights for Mainers under guardianship for reasons of mental illness, will not be in jeopardy. Unless otherwise specified in an individual’s guardianship document, individuals under a guardianship for reasons of mental illness have the right to vote in Maine. For those who are under guardianship who are prohibited from voting, but would like to vote, please reach out to Disability Rights Maine.
If you would like to contact Disability Rights Maine regarding Question 8, please contact Voting Access Advocate, Molly Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.