Maryland Restores Voting Rights to 40,000 Felons

Democrats overrode the Republican governor’s veto in a dramatic vote.

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-243758047/stock-photo-prisoner-in-handcuffs-clenching-fists-in-the-court-room.html">wavebreakmedia</a>/ShutterStock

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


In a dramatic vote to override the governor’s veto, the Maryland state Senate on Tuesday voted to restore voting rights to felons on probation or parole, giving approximately 40,000 felons the right to vote.

The right of former felons to vote has become an increasingly partisan issue in recent years. Democrats have pushed to roll back restrictions on ex-felon voting rights, while Republicans in states such as Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky have recently made it harder for ex-felons to regain their voting rights. Felons are disproportionately likely to be minorities and Democratic voters. But not every Republican is opposed to rights restoration. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for instance, has pushed for restoring rights after incarceration. In some states, such as the swing state of Florida, nearly 20 percent of voting-age African Americans cannot cast a ballot due to the state’s permanent ban on felon and ex-felon voting.

But in Maryland, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly was able to narrowly override the veto of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in order to expand voting rights.

At issue in Maryland’s bill was whether to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentence but are still on parole or probation. The bill passed the legislature last year, but Hogan vetoed it. Last month, the state House voted to override the veto, leaving a squeaker of a vote in the state Senate.

Unlike in many states, ex-offenders in Maryland already had the right to vote after all terms of their sentences were met. (Felons still in prison remain unable to vote.) The new law makes Maryland the 14th state to allow felons to vote once out of prison. But as the Baltimore Sun reports, it was tough to muster enough support for the override, which ultimately broke down along party lines.

The vote, twice delayed in order to muster enough support, followed an expansive debate that touched on resolving racial disparities in the criminal justice system and protecting victims of violent crime. Proponents argued voting would help felons rejoin society. The current system requires felons to complete probation and parole before registering to vote. Supporters of the law said that process was confusing and demoralizing to people trying to rebuild their lives…

In a largely party-line vote, Republicans in the Senate argued that felons should be allowed to vote but not before they have completed all the terms of their sentences.

Tuesday’s Senate vote was not without drama. Once Democrats had enough support for the override, a state senator was unexpectedly missing from the floor—causing the vote to fail. The rule books came out and for several minutes it was unclear if the veto would stand. Ultimately, the vote was taken up a second time when the senator returned to the floor, and the override was successful.

 

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate