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Maryland Governor Vetoes Bill to Restore Voting Rights to 40,000 Citizens

At a time when leaders of both political parties are uniting to reform our criminal justice system, this veto is a failure of leadership. The legislature should override the veto and give these citizens a second chance.

May 24, 2015

Despite overwhelming support in the General Assembly, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Friday vetoed a bill to restore voting rights to approximately 40,000 citizens who live in their communities but cannot vote because of a criminal conviction in their past.

The legislation was supported by a broad array of Maryland groups who form the Unlock the Vote coalition — which includes faith, racial justice, and civil rights leaders — and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Following Hogan’s decision, supporters are now urging the General Assembly to override the governor’s veto.

“At a time when leaders of both political parties are uniting to reform our criminal justice system, this veto is a failure of leadership by Governor Hogan,” said Tomas Lopez, counsel at the Brennan Center. “After the unrest in Baltimore, Marylanders are demanding to be heard. Restoring voting rights to 40,000 citizens would expand our democracy and increase public safety. Other lawmakers in Maryland understand this and have offered leadership. Governor Hogan has offered excuses. The General Assembly should respond by overriding his veto and giving these citizens a second chance."

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Maryland law prohibits individuals from voting until they have finished probation and parole. The bill Hogan vetoed, introduced by Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) and Del. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore), would simplify the process by allowing an individual to become eligible to vote upon release from prison or if they were never incarcerated in the first place. Lopez testified in support of restoring voting rights in front of both Senate and House committees.

The Maryland bill comes as rights restoration continues to gain bipartisan support, despite this veto. In March, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4.4 million Americans with past convictions. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill in February that would restore rights for those who have committed non-violent offenses.

View the Brennan Center’s proposal to restore voting rights upon release from incarceration, and our state-by-state guide on criminal disenfranchisement laws.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact Erik Opsal at erik.opsal@nyu.edu or 646-292-8356.