CRANSTON – After submitting voter registration forms last month, convicted child killer Michael Woodmansee will be allowed to cast his vote in the April 24 primary as a democrat despite being locked up in the state mental institution.
The news, reported by ABC 6 News last night, has raised the question on whether those incarcerated, voluntarily or not, should have the right to vote.
“I’m not advocating that people with a mental disability do not have the right to vote. They certainly do. It’s these people that are voting that have committed horrendous crimes. I don’t see where they have any rights,” Joseph DeLorenzo, chairman of the Cranston Board of Canvassers said.
Michael Woodmansee was convicted in 1982 of killing South Kingstown’s five year old Jason Foreman in 1975. He was sentenced to serve 40 years, but due to time off accrued through good time behavior, Woodmansee was released 12 years early this past fall. After news of the convicted killer’s early release sparked public outrage, Woodmansee agreed to commit himself to the state mental institution at Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston last fall.
When Jason’s surviving brother, John Foreman 43 and his wife Melanie Foreman discovered that Jason’s killer will be allowed to vote like every other Rhode Islander, they’re initial reaction was “Really?”
“Our question is whether he has the right to vote. He does. Our question is how?” Melanie Foreman asked.
According to the Rhode Island Restoration of Voting Rights Act, approved by voters in 2006, “A person who has lost the right of suffrage under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Rhode Island because of such person's incarceration upon a felony conviction shall be restored the right to vote when that person is discharged from incarceration.”
“Generally, in 2006 voters approved a constitutional amendment that restored the voting rights of felons once they were no longer incarcerated. Anyone who has been released from prison after serving time for a felony conviction is now eligible to vote -- even if they are still on probation or parole -- as long as they are a resident of Rhode Island, a U.S. citizen and be at least 18 years of age by Election Day,” Chris Barnett, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said.
In his application to vote through an absentee ballot, Woodmansee registered as a democrat. He signed the application on Feb. 16 and the Rhode Island Board of Elections approved the application on Feb 22.
For more information, check out Wednesday's edition of The Narragansett Times.