After the death of Freddie Gray, leaders from Annapolis came into our neighborhoods, shot some hoops, attended church services and gave lip service about change. But those leaders have never endured the high levels of poverty, lack of access to fresh food, dilapidated housing or high levels of joblessness that plague those neighborhoods. That is why many community members were not convinced by their words. On Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan gave them more reason to be skeptical. At 2 p.m. on the Friday before a holiday weekend, when many people were already away on vacation, he vetoed House Bill 980, which restored voting rights to ex-felons upon their release from prison, rather than waiting until they’re off parole or probation.
The timing seems calculated and political and designed to deflect attention from the veto. This ultimately perpetuates feelings of distrust for elected officials and apathy for voting and reinforces the idea that state leaders are protecting the interests of some over all.
The right to vote can both enhance lives and build communities. Knowing this, I was proud to sponsor House Bill 980. I was proud to have had 50 of my House colleagues co-sponsor this important piece of legislation. I was proud that this bill received bipartisan support in the House Ways and Means Committee and received bipartisan support on the House Floor. I am grateful that Sen. Joan Carter Conway led the way on the Senate side with the companion bill. This legislation had the opportunity to restore voting rights to over 40,000 ex-offenders.