States push for voting rights for felons

Maryland state lawmakers have taken up legislation to allow felons to vote once they were released from prison. Currently, felons must wait for their parole or probation to run out.

Jane Henderson, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform and executive director of Communities United, was surprised to learn that the legislation was getting action. She had assumed it would have been difficult to get the legislature to address the matter, let alone pass legislation. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it in May, but she is optimistic that the legislature will override him, and soon.

"By state constitution, they have to take it up soon when the next session starts in January," Henderson told the Washington Examiner. "In the Senate, we're fine. The House voted 82 for it and we need 85 … We're very close."

If Maryland does approve the bill, the state would be the latest in an accelerating trend. Since 2009, six states have rolled back laws limiting felon voting rights. In November, Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order restoring voting rights for people convicted of nonviolent offenses. In addition, a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against Iowa's highly restrictive felon voting rules is expected to be resolved by June.

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