WINTERPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — With one day to the election, a number of people have already voted, but there are still expected to be long lines at the polls. But a woman from Winterport is concerned about some of the people who can't make it to the polls.
Michelle Byram said her mother, who has Alzheimer's Disease, voted last week at her nursing home, but she thinks she shouldn't be able to. Byram said she was outraged when she found out her mother voted at the healthcare facility.
"I noticed she had an 'I Voted' sticker on the bulletin board," Byram said. "She said she didn't vote, but I followed through and asked the staff. I found out that the city comes in and conducts absentee ballot voting with them."
Byram is not pointing fingers at the facility but believes the issue is with the state law, where she feels there is a lot of gray areas when it comes to people with Alzheimer's.
According to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, under Maine law, everyone has the ability to vote, even if they're in assisted living facilities. He said city and town clerks can go to licensed residential care or assisted housing facilities with six or more beds to register residents and hand out absentee ballots.
"The city clerk staff does it. We train them," Secretary Dunlap said. "They go in teams, and if someone doesn't want to vote, they don't have to, but at least they're offered the opportunity by someone who has no stake in the outcome to process that and make sure they get their voice heard."
Dunlap said the state tries to support people's choice to vote, but he understands Byram's concerns. "I don't argue with them being alarmed. If that was my mother, I would have some questions."
But according to doctors, each and every person with dementia is different.
"Even people with dementia can still make choices, and they still have their right to vote," Dunlap said. "How do you govern that? I don't think you can."
"[My mom] is not at a point, mentally, where she would be capable of making an informed decision," Byram said.
Byram said she doesn't believe all memory loss patients should lose their right to vote, but she thinks there needs to be more conversation between election officials and the families of people with Alzheimer's before a vote is cast.