Doe v. Rowe

Maine's constitution provides that persons who are "under guardianship for reasons of mental illness" are prohibited from registering to vote or voting in any election. Jane Doe, Jill Doe, and June Doe are all under guardianship by reason of mental illness. The Maine Disability Rights Center filed suit on their behalf, claiming that in denying them the right to vote, the State of Maine failed to provide them adequate procedural due process and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The three women maintained that their psychiatric diagnoses did not prevent them from understanding the nature and effect of voting.

The U.S. District Court for the state of Maine finds that the Maine prohibition violates both the Equal Protection Clause and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court also holds that the State violates potential wards' due process rights by failing to give them notice before a guardianship hearing that they might lose their right to vote. The State had suggested to the court that it (the State) could expand the definition of 'mental illness' to meet the State's compelling interest that those who vote have the capacity to do so. In rejecting this proposal, the court writes that 'under any reasonable definition, 'mental illness' cannot serve as a proxy for mental incapacity with regards to voting. . . . After much consideration of a variety of definitions, the Court finds all definitions to be either fatally underinclusive or overinclusive.'