SB340, a bill that will extend voting rights to all released on from prison, is advancing in the Maryland Senate and is expected to come to a final vote on Monday, March 16 .
Take action today to urge your Senator to vote for SB340
Communities United is leading this fight, having initiated the Unlock the Vote coalition. Our ex-offender organizer Perry Hopkins provided powerful testimony at both hearings. (Center, photo below.)
Ex-offender Voting Right in Maryland
Since 2007, Maryland law has guaranteed the vote to persons who have been convicted of felony offenses once they complete probation and parole. Changing the law to restore the vote upon release from prison would enfranchise over 39,000 Marylanders – the great majority of whom are African Americans living in Baltimore City and Prince George's County. An estimated 52,000 former prisoners were re-enfranchised with the 2007 law, though the state does not notify convicted felons when their voting rights are restored. All total, the number of former prisoners disengaged or disenfranchised from the electorate approaches 100,000 Marylanders.
Felon disfranchisement laws disproportionately impact people of color – mirroring the severe racial impact of Maryland’s criminal justice system. African Americans make up 30 percent of Maryland's population but still represent nearly three-quarters of its prison population,1 and 65 percent of those disenfranchised by a felony conviction. As of 2010, 41,564 African American were still unable to vote in Maryland because of felony convictions.2
Enfranchisement and civic engagement of former prisoners will significantly expand the electorate of black, low income voters.
Why Maryland Should Enfranchisement All on Release from Prison
- Once people have served their time in prison, it is only right to restore their voting rights.
- Even law enforcement professionals agree that restoring voting rights gives people a stake in their communities and reduces the chances of re-offending.
- Eligibility to vote sends a strong message to returning prisoners that they matter.
- The current law is still confusing. Many former prisoners don't understand if and when they are eligible to register and vote.
- Some eligible former prisoners don't even register let alone vote, because they are afraid of getting in trouble for voter fraud.
- Enfranchisement on release from prison is easy for all to understand and simpler to administer. State and local boards of election do not have the capacity to verify that voter registration applications from convicted felons follow the law. This only fuels confusion and fear, a major barrier to voting for currently eligible former prisoners.
- The best time to inform returning prisoners of their voting rights is as they come out of prison. A voter registration form should be part of their release packet. Release is the time that prisoners are most optimistic about returning to life on the outside and contributing to their families and communities. After years on parole, struggling to survive day-to-day, many don't see a stake in voting.