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Maryland Restores Voting Rights to 50,000 Former Felons

SOURCE: Office of Gov. Martin O'Malley, State of Maryland
Reform aligns Maryland with 38 other states that allow voting rights after completion of sentence.
ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation on April 24 that re-enfranchises more than 50,000 Maryland residents who have completed their felony sentences of prison, parole, and probation. O'Malley's support of the "Voting Registration Protection Act" ends the state's lifetime voting ban and eliminates the three-year waiting period for certain people with past felony convictions.

Last month, the Senate approved the bill 28 to 19; the House voted 78 to 60 in favor.

"This is a progressive moment in Maryland and a new direction for our State," said Kimberly Haven, executive director of Justice Maryland, in a prepared statement to the press. Ms. Haven herself had been disenfranchised due to a felony record. "By signing this legislation, Maryland moves into the political mainstream. We applaud the commitment of the Governor and the members of the General Assembly who voted to support expanded democracy in Maryland."

Law ends lifetime disenfranchisement and waiting periods for people with felony convictions.
Prior to the new legislation, more than 110,000 Maryland residents were disenfranchised due to felony convictions—one out of every 37 residents. The state was one of only 11 with a permanent felony disenfranchisement policy, and one of only six states that disenfranchised some who had been convicted of misdemeanors. Among those with felony records, nearly half (52,272) have completed their full sentence, while another 31% are living in the community on probation or parole.

Maryland joins a national trend of expanding voting access to people with felony convictions. This month, Florida paved the way to restore the vote to hundreds of thousands of people who had completed their felony terms, and previously were permanently barred from voting In November, Rhode Island residents voted in favor of a measure that removed the voting ban for people under felony probation and parole supervision. As of today, a total of 39 states and the District of Columbia allow voting upon completion of sentence, if not sooner.

Since 1997, 16 states have taken steps to reform disenfranchisement laws, and prior to April 2007 more than 630,000 people had regained their voting rights, according to analysis conducted by The Sentencing Project.

In a prepared statement to the press, Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, said, "Antiquated laws still disenfranchise millions of Americans for their past mistakes. Changing these laws will contribute to successful re-entry and rehabilitation."


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This story was published on April 24, 2007.