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Maryland Legislature Passes Bill to Restore Voting Rights

The bill would restore voting rights to nearly 40,000 people who live, work, and raise families in Maryland.

April 8, 2015

The Mary­land legis­lature over­whelm­ingly approved a bill to restore voting rights to nearly 40,000 people with past crim­inal convic­tions. The meas­ure — which would simplify Maryland’s law so that a person becomes eligible to vote upon release from prison or if they are not incar­cer­ated at all — passed the House today and the Senate last month.

It now heads briefly back to the Senate, where it passed by a wide margin, for concur­rence with a tech­nical amend­ment, and then to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signa­ture.

“Amer­ic­ans believe in second chances,” said Tomas Lopez, coun­sel in the Demo­cracy Program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Restor­ing a person’s right to vote once they’ve paid their debt to soci­ety gives them an oppor­tun­ity for redemp­tion and a chance to be full members of their community.”

“This bill will help thou­sands of people who live, work, and raise famil­ies in Mary­land,” added Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Center’s Demo­cracy Program. “Our demo­cracy will only grow stronger when more citizens parti­cip­ate. We urge the governor to sign it without delay.”

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The bill is 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. 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 — both nation­ally and in the states.

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. Demo­crats and Repub­lic­ans are also work­ing to pass a rights restor­a­tion bill in Minnesota.

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.