Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Maryland

A summary of current felony disenfranchisement policies and legislative advocacy in Maryland.

March 10, 2016

After a successful veto override, voting rights in Maryland are restored automatically after release from prison, and not taken away from those on probation. This law went into effect on March 10, 2016.

With a vote in the House on January 21 and another in the Senate on February 9, Maryland’s legislature voted to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto and enact SB 340/HB 980. When this legislation became law on March 10, it immediately restored voting rights to an estimated 40,000 Marylanders. This new legislation replaced Maryland’s previous practice of disenfranchising individuals with past felony convictions until they completed each and every portion of their sentences. Going forward, citizens will regain their voting rights immediately upon release from incarceration, and will not lose their right to vote if not sentenced to incarceration. Maryland now joins 13 other states and the District of Columbia that do so (two additional states do not disenfranchise any citizen for a criminal conviction).

Recent Developments

The effort to restore the right to vote for every Maryland citizen living in the state’s communities joined allies from across the state and around the country, including the Brennan Center. The Unlock the Vote coalition includes community, racial justice, faith, and civil rights leaders who came together to support voting rights restoration legislation as a common-sense reform that builds a more inclusive democracy while serving public safety.

  • On February 9, 2016, the legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass SB 340/HB 980, restoring voting rights to 40,000 Marylanders living, working and raising families in their communities who are in the process of completing their terms of probation or parole.
  • On May 22, 2015, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed SB 340/HB 980.
  • In April 2015, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed SB 340/HB 980, which received some bipartisan support, to restore voting rights to these citizens. The bill also received vocal support from the coalition that backed reform.
  • In February and March 2015, the Brennan Center testified before the Maryland Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs, and the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee in support of bills SB 340 and HB 980. The Center’s testimony emphasized the bills’ broad benefits to democracy and public safety. Carl Wicklund, then Executive Director of the American Parole and Probation Association, also submitted a letter to legislators stressing how voting rights and civic engagement can aid in the re-entry process.

Past Developments

On April 24, 2007, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed historic legislation that ended lifetime disenfranchisement in Maryland, restoring the right to vote to over 50,000 Maryland citizens. This new law, in place until the 2016 law replaced it, required citizens to fully complete all aspects of their sentence before regaining their voting rights. As part of its efforts, the Brennan Center testified in support of reform, as it had done in prior years.

Official Legislative & Executive Documents

Letters of Support

Brennan Center Coverage

Press

Brennan Center Publications

  • Restoring the Right to Vote, Erika Wood (2009)
    • The Brennan Center’s policy proposal for restoring voting rights for citizens with past criminal convictions.
  • My First Vote (2009)
    • Testimonials of individuals who regained their voting rights after being disenfranchised because of past criminal convictions.
  • De Facto Disenfranchisement, Erika Wood & Rachel Bloom (2008)
    • A report on how complex laws, poorly informed officials, and misinformation lead to the de facto disenfranchisement of citizens with past criminal convictions who are eligible to vote.
  • Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History, Erin Kelley (2017)
    • A piece examining the historical roots of criminal disenfranchisement laws that today strip voting rights from millions of U.S. citizens.

For more information about the Brennan Center’s work on restoring the right to vote in Maryland and around the country, please contact Makeda Yohannes, at makeda.yohannes@nyu.edu.