The Sentencing Project Issues Report on "Expanding the Vote"

Contains details on how states have reformed their felony disenfranchisement laws.

Source: The Sentencing Project

Maryland has experienced a number of changes in felony disenfranchisement policy in recent years. Prior to 2002, persons convicted of a first-time felony offense regained their voting rights after completion of sentence, but anyone with two or more convictions was disenfranchised for life. In 2002, Maryland amended the restoration process for persons convicted of two or more non-violent crimes. Under the new policy, all persons convicted of a second non-violent offense were automatically eligible to vote three years after the completion of sentence. Persons convicted of a violent offense were still required to apply to the governor for a pardon. Attaching voter eligibility to a sliding scale of offense types and criminal history created great confusion among individuals with felony convictions as to the status of their right to vote and presented many logistical difficulties for state agencies in maintaining an accurate database of eligible voters.

In 2007, the patchwork law regarding post-sentence disenfranchisement was repealed by the Maryland legislature and replaced with automatic restoration for all persons upon completion of sentence. This reform resulted in the restoration of voting rights to more than 52,000 people.

Overall, the Sentencing Project's recently released report states, "Since 1997, 23 states have amended felony disenfranchisement policies in an effort to reduce their restrictiveness and expand voter eligibility." During the period from 1997-2010, an estimated 800,000 persons have regained the right to vote.

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This story was published on October 11, 2010.