DRM Statement on Portland Press Herald Article That Misinforms Voters with Disabilities

In its September 24, 2020 article “Some voters fear being ‘purged’ at the polls. Should you?” the Portland Press Herald mistakenly reports that “A clerk must remove you from the voting list if they are given notice that you have been placed under guardianship due to mental illness.” This is wrong. Any attempts to enforce this provision are unconstitutional and discriminatory.

In its article, the Press Herald incorrectly relied on obsolete language from Maine’s Constitution, language that was invalidated by a federal judge nearly 20 years ago in Doe v. Rowe, 156 F. Supp. 35 (D. Me. 2001), a case brought by Disability Rights Maine (DRM). In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal found that Maine’s Constitution violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To be clear, “the U.S. Constitution gives all citizens the right to vote. [A person] can register to vote if ….. [they are] under guardianship.” https://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/voter-info/right.html

DRM is concerned about the impact on the fundamental right to vote that this inaccurate article may have. At a time when concerns about voter misinformation are at an all-time high, the Press Herald’s article may further disenfranchise voters with psychiatric histories or labels of mental illness.

Since the 1990’s, the Secretary of State’s Office has worked closely with Disability Rights Maine and many other disability partners to educate municipal clerks and registrars about voting rights and to ensure that voters with disabilities have full and equal access to the polls. We are hopeful that through these efforts, municipalities will disregard the information in this article.

Kim Moody
Executive Director
Disability Rights Maine