Rhode Island official resigns over ballot request by child killer

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 22, 2012 6:36 PM
Rhode Island official resigns over ballot request by child killer

(Reuters) - A convicted child killer's application for an absentee ballot in Rhode Island has led to the resignation of two city officials in Cranston who refused to approve his request.

Joseph DeLorenzo, chairman of the Cranston Board of Canvassers, said on Monday he quit after the state Board of Elections warned he could face prosecution for refusing to authorize absentee ballot requests from Michael Woodmansee and two other convicted murderers held at a state psychiatric hospital.

Woodmansee pleaded guilty to murder in the 1975 killing and mutilation of 5-year-old Jason Foreman. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison but was released last year and committed to an institution in Cranston.

A registered Democrat, he applied for the ballot last week.

"You think this guy has a right to vote? Not in my world," said DeLorenzo.

A second member of the board resigned on Friday. Two of the three board members must sign off on such requests.

In 2006, Rhode Island voters approved a referendum relaxing restrictions on voting for those released from prison.

Cranston's election board has not provided evidence that Woodmansee cannot vote, said Robert Kando, executive director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections.

"Our constitution allows a person who is a Rhode Island citizen over 18 who is not serving time on a felony conviction to vote," he said.

The state board notified Cranston officials that any election officer who "willfully neglects to perform his or her duty" may be prosecuted for a misdemeanor, Kando said.

State laws vary in regard to voting rights for felons.

Vermont and Maine do not restrict felons' voting rights even while they are in prison, while Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia permanently strip them of the right unless they get a governor's pardon, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 38 states and the District of Columbia, most ex-felons can vote once they are released. Other states require a waiting period or require ex-felons to apply for the restoration of their voting rights, the conference said.

(Reporting by Jason McLure; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)