Gov. Larry Hogan took out his veto pen Friday, rejecting a bill that would allow felons to vote as soon as they leave prison rather than waiting to finish parole or probation. The veto, one of several announced by the governor’s office, quickly drew a pledge from the legislation’s sponsor to find the votes to override. “I just think Maryland should be more progressive,” said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat. She said she needs to line up only a handful of additional votes in each chamber to override Hogan’s veto when the General Assembly returns in January. In a letter to legislative leaders, Hogan said current law that makes felons wait to vote until completing all aspects of their sentence “achieves the proper balance between repayment of obligations to society for a felony conviction and the restoration of the various restricted rights.” The Republican governor was not available for interviews Friday, aides said.
Maryland is one of 39 states allowing ex-convicts to vote after they have completed their sentences — including any probation and parole. There are about 40,000 former felons in Maryland who are out of prison but unable to vote because they are still on parole or probation. The bill was approved during the Assembly session largely along party lines.
Hogan had been pressured by advocates on both sides of the issue. The website mdpetitions.com, founded by Del. Neil Parrott, a Western Maryland Republican, facilitated an online letter-writing campaign to urge Hogan to veto the measure. Meanwhile, a group of ex-offenders rallied in Baltimore last week as part of a campaign aimed at persuading the governor to sign the bill.
Communities United, a group that promoted the voting rights bill, issued a statement criticizing Hogan’s veto. “Governor Hogan has learned nothing from the uprising in Baltimore and what the city and state residents need. Freddie Gray’s West Baltimore neighborhood has the highest rate of disenfranchisement in the state,” the group said. “Former felons need a voice and the ability to influence what happens in their communities and lives.”