As grantee scrutinizes Maine’s guardianship system, voters will weigh voting rights for mentally ill people

Chairs of the Health and Human Services Committee Sen. Joe Baldacci (D-Bangor), left, and Rep. Michele Meyer (D-Eliot) listen to presentations from state officials on Wednesday. The meeting comes after reports by The Maine Monitor that eight adults in public guardianship died in unexplained ways. Photo by Samantha Hogan.

Next week, Maine voters will decide whether people with mental illness in the state’s loosely regulated guardianship system could continue to be barred from voting under the state’s constitution. The referendum comes in the wake of a series of stories in the Maine Monitor about the guardianship system. Reporter Samantha Hogan, with support from the Fund, has been taking a detailed look at the state’s antiquated probate court system, which oversees the guardian program and is run by part-time, elected judges who are subject to little oversight. The series has revealed several areas of spotty oversight of public guardianships. The legislature has begun to examine Hogan’s findings with an eye to making changes in the system.