By Erik Opsal, The Brennan Center for Justice
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.”
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.
Share this post online