Maine one of only two states to allow prisoners to vote

Maine one of only two states to allow prisoners to vote
Maine one of only two states to allow prisoners to vote
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 9:57 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - One of the fundamental rights of American citizens is the right to franchise.

In other words, the right to vote.

But many states have enforced disenfranchisement laws, prohibiting populations of convicted persons from voting.

Maine is one of only two states with no such laws.

Emily Tadlock dug into voting for incarcerated Mainers.

“Maine and Vermont are the only two states in the union that allow everyone to vote in their elections, including people who may actually be incarcerated felons.”

You never lose your right to vote in the state of Maine.

The same can’t be said for other states.

“Some states they don’t allow you to vote while you’re in prison. Some states don’t allow you to vote again, ever if you’re convicted of certain felonies. Other states have something of a hybrid where you can’t vote while you’re in prison. When you come out of prison you can make an application to get the right to vote back.”

Inmates who are residents of Maine fill out an absentee ballot request for mail in voting.

They therefore vote in whatever municipality they previously held an address in.

Officials with Maine’s jails and prisons do help offenders register and vote.

“It’s the duty of citizens to vote and so we encourage that. In fact, we did a registration drive this year and we had more than 100 of the offenders, just in the Maine State Prison register to vote.”

Prison officials estimate about 25 percent of the prison population in Maine exercise their right to vote.

“Our responsibility here is to try to provide some education that while although incarcerated you still have the right to vote. Again, making sure that we are not providing any influence whether it’s inside influence or outside influence but making sure that those incarcerated know that the absentee ballot process is still available to them.”

Jail officials say they even go as far as paying for the postage to mail absentee ballots to eliminate any barriers a person may face when voting from behind bars.

However, the jail population of voters is pretty low according to officials and voting can be difficult due to the migratory nature of the court system.

“This time, when we’ve actually posted this twice, I think we’ve had six people participate and our population is generally 160 or higher in the facility. So, we do afford that ability to do it but certainly, as you can imagine with the fluid population coming in and out it can be a challenge.”

State officials say stripping convicted felons of the right to vote has come before the legislature several times but each time it has been voted down.

“Felonies run a very broad gambit. They’re not all hijackers and murderers. We don’t really make a distinction there because either you are a citizen and you have rights or you are not a citizen and you do not have rights.”

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