We, the undersigned, urge you to sign SB340/HB 980, which restores voting rights to people in Maryland who are out of prison and on probation or parole living in our communities. This bill will restore the vote to over 39,000 former prisoners – the great majority of whom are African American. These are our neighbors, friends, and even family members, living in our communities, paying taxes and otherwise contributing.
This legislation will make Maryland communities safer. Law enforcement professionals agree that restoring voting rights gives people a stake in their communities and reduces the chances of re-offending. As the American Probation and Parole Association wrote to the Senate EHE Committee in support of the bill, “One of the core missions of parole and probation supervision is to support the successful transition from prison and jail to the community. Civic participation is an integral part of this transition because it helps transform one's identity from deviant to law-abiding citizen.” SB340/HB 980 provides an opportunity for people to fulfill the most fundamental obligations of citizenship, and to pass civic values on to their children.
The current law functions to suppress the vote. Many former prisoners do not understand if and when they are eligible to register and vote. Many do not do it because they are afraid of getting in trouble for voter fraud. The state and local boards of elections currently do not have the capacity to verify the registration eligibility of formerly incarcerated persons who apply to register to vote. SB340/HB980 is easier for everyone to implement and understand.
And this policy has board public support -- national polls show that nearly two-thirds of U.S. residents support voting rights for those on probation or parole. SB340/HB 980 is a win for civil rights and public safety. Governor, we earnestly urge you to sign it.