August 10, 2001

The United States District Court for the District of Maine today invalidated a provision of the Maine Constitution that prohibited persons under guardianship for mental illness from voting. Maine voters had rejected by large margins referendum questions seeking repeal of the provision in 1997 and 2000.

Attorney General Steven Rowe reiterated his statement of February 20, 2001, in which he stated: "As Attorney General, I am sworn to defend the Constitution and laws of Maine. Maine has a Constitutional provision that restricts the voting rights of many of our citizens.

"I do not intend for any person under guardianship to lose the right to vote as a result of my office's defense of the lawsuit brought by the Disability Rights Center. On the contrary, I believe that our analysis of the Constitutional voting restriction and the Maine probate code together has emphasized the fact that probate judges making guardianship decisions have the authority to ensure that an individual with capacity to vote retains that sacred right."

After receiving the District Court's ruling today, Attorney General Rowe stated: "I believe we have fulfilled our duty to defend the Constitution. Our intent throughout this proceeding was to show that the provision could be narrowly construed so as to deprive fewer people of the right to vote while abiding the Constitution and the will of the voters. While our argument did not prevail, we are not displeased with the Court's decision. We do not intend to appeal."