Can Martha Stewart ever vote again?

Can Martha Stewart ever vote again?

by Michelle Kaminsky, Esq., December 2009

Martha Stewart, securities broker turned Queen of All Things Domestic, recently saw her pristine reputation smudged. She faced felony convictions for obstructing justice, conspiracy, and making false statements regarding her sale of $228,000 of ImClone Systems stock.

Stewart was accused of trying to conceal her actions when her broker unlawfully relayed information that another client was furiously selling his ImClone shares. This client, Sam Waksal, (president, CEO, and director of Imclone) also happened to be a friend of Martha Stewart. The federal judge who heard the case dropped a securities fraud charge against Stewart.

A few months later, the price of indiscretion proved it could catch up with the rich and famous. Martha Stewart, one of history's most successful businesswomen, would serve five months in prison, two years' probation, five months' home confinement, and pay the maximum fine of $30,000.

Other than confinement, how will Stewart's life change now that she's a convicted felon? She is no longer CEO of her self-made, self-named empire, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. About 200 of her employees have lost their jobs. She has become the butt of water cooler and media jokes debating how the lifestyle diva will decorate her prison cell.

But, joking aside, another significant loss of freedom looms over the homemaking expert: Stewart's conviction means she loses the right to vote. With her long history of campaign funding and a presidential election year, this is no doubt a blow.

The effect of a felony conviction on the right to vote varies from state to state. But convicts do remain the only group denied the right to vote. The state in which the individual lives, not in which the conviction occurred, determines the effect on voting. Almost all states deny prisoners the right to vote. The probation period extends the bar on voting in many states. In just a handful of states, the right to vote is permanently lost for ex-convicts.

In Stewart's situation, she won't be able to vote in the election. If she had completed her sentence before November, house arrest and probation wouldn't have been enough to keep her out of the polls. Her voting rights will automatically be restored once she completes imprisonment, but she will have to reregister.

So, yes, Martha Stewart will be able to vote again. Unfortunately, agents of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney's Office are appointed, not elected officials, so she will have to find another way to vent . . . perhaps by building another empire, one good thing at a time.