Discrimination has a negative impact on persons with serious brain disorders in many different ways. A form of discrimination that is often unnoticed exists within voting rights—or lack of them. Forty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws on the books barring certain individuals with mental disabilities from voting. In November an effort to repeal one of the most restrictive of these state laws went down in defeat.
A provision in the Maine Constitution prohibits individuals under guardianships due to mental illness from voting, yet no such prohibitions exist for persons under guardianships due to other types of conditions. During its last session, the Maine legislature voted overwhelmingly to repeal this constitutional provision, a repeal that was supported by Maine’s governor, Angus King. Despite the efforts of advocates and the governor, a referendum on the Maine ballot to repeal this provision was defeated by a vote of 60 percent to 40 percent. NAMI-Maine believes that the defeat may have been attributable to a lack of understanding about its meaning on the part of the voting electorate. They believe that by educating the public there is a good chance that the referendum to repeal the voting ban will eventually be passed.