It's January and the state legislative session opens on Wednesday, January 13. With the 2016 legislative session comes the opportunity for the General Assembly to override Governor Hogan's May veto of SB340/HB980 -- which will restore voting rights to about 40,000 Maryland citizens who live in our communities but cannot vote because of a criminal conviction in their past.
Now is the time to urge your legislators to vote for this override! Please take action today!
Why we support SB340/HB980:
- The bill will immediately restore the vote to about 40,000 Marylanders.
Once people have served their time in prison, they should regain their voting rights. They are living in our communities, paying taxes and otherwise contributing.
Law enforcement professionals agree that restoring voting rights gives people a stake in their communities and reduces the chances of re-offending. The American Probation and Parole Association, wrote to the Senate’s Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee in support of SB 340/HB980: “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.”
Felon disfranchisement laws disproportionately affect 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 represent nearly three-quarters of its prison population, 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.
The current law suppresses the vote. Many former prisoners do not understand the current law regarding 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.
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 and is a major barrier to voting.