A Closure Look: Question 8

Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 4:07 PM EST
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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - Question 8 is asking voters to remove a phrase from the Maine Constitution that says that people can’t vote if they are under guardianship for reasons of mental illness.

This provision was added to the Maine constitution in 1965. However, in 2001 Disability Rights Maine sued the State of Maine over the provision, and the courts deemed that it was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Shenna Bellows, the Secretary of State, explains that the Maine constitution is currently overruled by the U.S. Constitution. “As the law stands right now, because of the United States Constitution, people under guardianship for mental illness can vote in Maine,” Bellows says. “Unfortunately that discriminatory language is still there because to remove that language requires a two-thirds vote at the legislature and ratification by the people.”

Molly Thompson, from Disability Rights Maine, explains why this question is on the referendum. “This provision was found unconstitutional over 22 years ago, we want to remove it from Maine’s constitution. It’s really a housekeeping item to make sure that the values of today are reflected in Maine’s constitution.”

Both Thompson and Bellows say that it’s important for people to vote for this question to promote accuracy and inclusivity. “We’re very afraid at Disability Rights Maine that those individuals or their family or caregivers might see that in Maine’s constitution and automatically think that, ‘oh, I don’t have the right to vote,’” Thompson says.

“We’re living in an age of misinformation online, sometimes conspiracies, and we always tell people, ‘go to the source documents. Go to the original source for your information.’ Well unfortunately right now the original source here in our state, the Maine State Constitution, is wrong,” Bellows explains.

There is no known organized opposition to this bill, likely because the result of the election will not affect anyone’s right to vote and because the provision goes against the U.S. Constitution.