Over 40,000 people with past felony convictions who are on probation or parole will have their voting rights restored if a veto override attempt is successful in Maryland legislature next week. In Maryland, someone with a past felony conviction is barred from voting until he or she finishes their probation or parole. Legislation sent to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk last spring would have changed that, by allowing people to vote once they’ve left prison. Hogan, who is immensely popular in the state, vetoed the legislation, setting up a fight with Democrats, who control both legislative chambers. On Wednesday, the Democrats’ leadership signaled that they would vote to override Hogan’s veto next Tuesday or Wednesday. If the veto override succeeds, Maryland will join the 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow all people with felony convictions who have left prison to vote in elections.
Three states — Kentucky, Iowa and Florida — permanently revoke voting rights for all people convicted of a felony, while two states — Maine and Vermont — never strip felons of their voting rights, so Maryland would remain in the middle of the felon disenfranchisement continuum.
Last spring, Hogan justified his veto by arguing that people with felony convictions should finish their sentences before they regain all of their rights. In a letter to the state’s legislative leaders, Hogan said the current law that makes felons wait to vote until they have completed 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.”
But voting rights and racial justice advocates say that restoring voting rights for people with felony convictions helps them reintegrate into society.