Rep. Gary Knight thinks convicted murderers should not be allowed to vote while they are in prison, so he’s sponsoring a measure to change the Maine Constitution. Knight, a Republican from Livermore Falls, knows other attempts to restrict felons’ voting rights have failed in Maine in recent years. But he said conversations with family members of murder victims convinced him it’s time to try again. This will be the sixth time since 1999 that the Legislature has considered a bill to restrict felons’ voting rights, according to the Law and Legislative Reference Library. All those attempts have failed. Maine is one of only two states that allow felons to vote while incarcerated, along with Vermont.
Knight said his bill is different from those that were rejected because it specifies that only those convicted of Class A crimes, which include murder, manslaughter and gross sexual assault, would be prevented from voting. Also, when they get out of prison, their voting rights would be restored. “They give up their rights of citizenship when they commit this type of crime,” he said. “This is to address the most heinous of crimes.”
The bill will be opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which has led the opposition in the past. “Stripping people of constitutional rights is no appropriate punishment,” said executive director Shenna Bellows. “Voting is also an important tool in rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”