An inmate at the Maine State Prison is suing the city of Augusta, claiming officials there denied him his right to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Raishawn Key, 35, says he hand-delivered the registration application and absentee ballot request to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap when Dunlap visited the prison.

However, Key’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, says Augusta City Clerk Roberta Fogg rejected it because of “a non-existing street address.” Key says his rights under federal and state law were violated as a result.

In November 2013, Key, who is originally from New York, was sentenced to six years in state prison for aggravated drug trafficking in the Augusta area.

Key says he was living at 3 Noyce Court when he was arrested in 2013 and that it is the address that appears on his Maine state identification card, which he received in May 2013.

There is no Noyce Court in the city; however, there is a “Noyes Court” near Cony Circle and Augusta City Center.

Key is asking for a ruling in his favor, $75,000 from city officials for compensation, $100,000 from the city, $20,000 each from Fogg and City Manager William Bridgeo and $10,000 each from Sue Gosselin and four other city officials referred to as John Does.

Key also seeks an injunction ordering the city to refrain from “improperly disenfranchising duly authorized citizens from the right to register to vote and exercise such right through the absentee ballot process.”

He filed a notice of claim with the city on Nov. 30, 2016, and the lawsuit itself was filed Jan. 5.

On Friday, Magistrate Judge John Nivison rejected Key’s request for a court-appointed lawyer, saying the issues are not complex, the complaint covers a limited time and Key “has shown a knowledge of relevant legal issues.”

Key had sought court-appointed counsel, saying the issues he raises are complex, and that he has only a high school education as well as limited access to legal reference material in the prison.

The city’s attorney, Stephen Langsdorf, said Tuesday the city will deny that it violated Key’s constitutional rights.

“The clerk was doing her job pursuant to law to take appropriate steps to avoid voter fraud by asking for clarification,” Langsdorf said. “I am confident the case will be dismissed.”

He said it’s the first time in his 18 years as the city’s attorney that the city has been sued over a voter rights issue.

Langsdorf said Key’s registration request listed a nonexistent address on Noyce Court, and the state wrote back for clarification as well as proof he lived in the city before he was arrested.

“He sent back an ID card which still has the non-existent address,” Langsdorf said. “He still has not shown any proof he lived at any address in Augusta. If he does do that, the clerk will register him to vote in Augusta. Because he is incarcerated, everything has to be done by mail, which makes things slower and makes communication more difficult.”

Dunlap and Deputy Secretary for the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions Julie Flynn were at the Maine State Prison on Sept. 28 doing voter outreach, according to Kristen Schulze Muszynski, director of communications for the secretary of state.

“Such visits are made on occasion, prior to elections, in this case per an invitation from the NAACP to participate,” she said.

She also noted that the Maine State Constitution does not prohibit convicted felons from voting in Maine.

Rachel Healy, communications and public education director at the ACLU of Maine, said the organization would need more details before commenting on this case. However, she also noted that all states except Maine and Vermont restrict voting rights of people who are incarcerated.

Maine law says, “A person incarcerated in a correctional facility may apply to register to vote in any municipality where that person has previously established a fixed and principal home to which the person intends to return.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: