The election results of Question 8 are that most Maine voters think that individuals under a guardianship for reasons of mental illness should not be allowed to vote for governor, senators or representatives.

Denying an adult the right to vote because they have a guardian is preposterous.

In practice, there are no uniform criteria for deciding if an adult will have a guardian. Someone can be super unsafe in their behavior, detached from reality and never have a guardian. And someone can be mentally ill but reasonably stable and successful for decades and have a guardian until the day they die. These are both normal situations in our country. From years of experience working with people with mental illness, I guarantee that no one (including doctors and social workers) would be able to tell which of my clients have a guardian simply by the client’s diagnosis and presentation.

Some factors that actually influence if a person has a guardian: age of diagnosis. Family involvement. Self-advocacy. Race. Class. Gender. The biases of fallible human health department workers, doctors and judges. These are things we don’t want to use as a basis for stripping a fundamental American right.

The fact that there wasn’t any organized opposition to this initiative, and yet it still lost, demonstrates how much people were voting off vibes and prejudice. We have the personal responsibility to examine our harmful biases. Did we learn nothing from Britney Spears’ conservatorship?

Jay Gruber

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