Washington, DC – Today, the Maryland state Senate successfully overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2015 veto of legislation (SB340 and HB 980) restoring voting rights to more than 40,000 Marylanders with significant majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate. Under the new law, Marylanders with felony convictions will be allowed to vote upon their release.
Democracy Initiative organizations were heavily engaged in this campaign and are thrilled by the final result. The Democracy Initiative is working state by state and voter by voter to ensure that all Americans have an equal voice in the process, while our elected leaders are accountable to the people and the public interest. NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks sent a letter to House Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller thanking them for their persistent leadership and urging them to keep their delegations united. Building grassroots support, the AFL-CIO organized hundreds of calls connecting their supportive Maryland members with their local state delegates and Senators. Additionally, a letter sent by the Democracy Initiative also thanked Speaker Busch and President Miller for their hard work on this important effort.
“Throughout the country, an estimated 5.8 million American citizens are prevented from participating in the voting process,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks. “Nationally, 1 out of every 13 voting-eligible African-Americans has been stripped of their voting rights. I applaud the courage of the Maryland legislators who voted to restore voting rights to the more than 63,000 people disenfranchised in Maryland due to previous convictions, of which 40,000 are African-American. We firmly believe in second chances and that citizens who have completed their sentences be allowed to exercise the constitutional right to vote.”
“Our elected officials heard the voice of working people across the state of Maryland. A strong voice that said justice and rehabilitation demands voting rights restoration! As we continue to build stronger communities we must make it possible for all people to have a voice,” said Fred Mason, MD/DC AFL-CIO President. “Formerly incarcerated individuals deserve the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and participate fully in their communities. I proudly stand in support of this decision and the Democracy we are intentionally building.”
“Democracy is on the march in Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly’s vote to override Governor Hogan’s veto and restore the right to vote for formally incarcerated citizens comes at a critical time for our democracy,” said Emma Greenman, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy at the Center for Popular Democracy. “The time has come to lift up the voices of those in Maryland and across the country who have been locked out of our democracy by unjust laws. Today in Maryland because of the advocacy of a diverse coalition of organizations with formally incarcerated citizens leading the way, more than 40,000 Marylanders have regained their fundamental right to vote and their voice in our democracy.”
Restoring voting rights to previously incarcerated individuals who have served their debt to society is critical to a functioning democracy, while punitive measures serve to disenfranchise and isolate ex-offenders who are rejoining their families and communities. As some state legislatures around the country shamefully roll back the fundamental right to vote, we are encouraged to see that the Maryland General Assembly is working to expand voting rights for all of its citizens.
The campaign, led by the local Maryland coalition Communities United and supported nationally by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Democracy Initiative, was successful in uniting grassroots and grasstops leaders around this important democracy issue, committed to building a democracy of, by, and for the people.