Can Martha Stewart Ever Vote Again?
When and whether federal inmate No. 55170-054, Martha Stewart, ever votes again depends on which of her homes she claims as her primary residence after release from the federal correctional facility. Stewart owns several homes, one each in Connecticut, New York and Maine.
The Fourteenth Amendment grants power to the individual states to determine whether to disenfranchise its citizens “for participating in rebellion, or other crime.” States typically interpret felonies to belong to the nebulous category, “other crimes.”
Most people assume that all felons forfeit the right to vote for life, but only 37 states deny the right to vote to convicted felons who have paid their debt to society. Currently, 48 states and the District of Columbia deny incarcerated felons the right to vote, Maine and Vermont being the only exceptions.
Residency’s Role in Reestablishing the Right to Vote
Is it the residence in New York, Connecticut or Maine that Stewart calls home? One of those must serve as her primary residence at any given time, but that has proven unclear in the past, especially to Stewart. In 1991, she told New York authorities that the Westbury, CT residence was her primary residence, claiming that her East Hampton, NY home was uninhabitable. In fact, one of those recitations of the facts took place under oath. In the Christmas issue of her magazine, she must have been confused, because she referred to the uninhabitable East Hampton residence as home. Perhaps the heart of the inconsistency lies in the definition of the word “uninhabitable,” or perhaps East Hampton sells more magazines than Connecticut, but this editorial oversight cost Stewart dearly-in excess of $200,000 in back New York state income taxes, fines, and interest.
If Stewart claims Maine as her primary residence, not only would she be allowed to vote as a convicted felon after serving her sentence, but she would also be allowed to vote by absentee ballot while serving her prison sentence in whatever federal correctional facility Stewart will temporarily call home sweet home. Since Stewart has never claimed Maine as her primary residence either informally or under oath, it’s unlikely that she will be the target of any get-out-the-felon-vote initiatives.
If Stewart decided to inhabit her Connecticut farmhouse for 183 or more days of any given year, then she would still be able to vote upon completion of her sentence. Connecticut does not automatically reinstate the right to vote for discharged prisoners. Instead, the felon bears the burden of proof that the sentence has been fully discharged. In addition, the felon must satisfy all fines and penalties levied in connection with the conviction. Until submitting satisfactory written proof to the office of the Registrar of Voters, convicted Connecticut felons cannot vote.
Given that that Stewart plans to serve out the additional five months of her sentence at her Bedford, NY estate, it is likely that she would meet the residency requirement to vote in the state of New York. If Stewart claims her current Bedford, NY estate as her primary residence, her disenfranchisement would end automatically at the conclusion of her sentence or parole, whichever comes first. No further action would be required on Stewart’s part.
Regardless of her final destination after confinement, she need only comply with state regulations in whichever state she will call home to reclaim this all-important civil right. Since Stewart leaves little to chance, one wonders how 100% of her homes happen to be located in states that allow convicted felons to vote. Was this an entry on her real estate checklist, falling somewhere between rich, fertile land and rich, old-money neighbors?