On Tuesday, Maryland's Democrat-controlled legislature overturned Governor Larry Hogan's (R) veto of a bill that would give voting rights to felons before they complete probation and parole.
More than 40,000 felons will now be able to vote in time for the 2016 election:
The reversal both dealt a political blow to the Republican governor, who lobbied to prevent the bill from becoming law, and set the stage for an estimated 20,000 former inmates to cast ballots in Baltimore's primary election for mayor and City Council this spring.
The issue drew passionate debate from both sides on the proper message to send former inmates rejoining society.
The felon bill was the sixth bill that Hogan vetoed from last year's General Assembly and the sixth bill the Democrats reinstated this year. From the Baltimore Sun:
The House of Delegates voted to override Hogan's veto last month, and on Tuesday, the Senate voted 29-18 to overrule the governor.
The vote, twice delayed in order to muster enough support, followed an expansive debate that touched on resolving racial disparities in the criminal justice system and protecting victims of violent crime. The current system requires felons to complete probation and parole before registering to vote. But proponents argued that the system is confusing, unnecessary and demoralizing to ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives.
The law goes into effect on March 10.
Governor Hogan responded to the vote on his Facebook page, saying the override was a consequence of "partisan" politics.
"Only a tiny, radical minority supports this idea. But they did it anyway," Hogan wrote. "They don't seem to care what most Marylanders want. Why did they do it anyway? Because they can."
Hogan also said, "Some people may have ended their careers. Basically, they just ignored the will of the people. That's not a good way to keep your job in the Senate. ... Most Marylanders are going to be pretty upset."
But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat from Calvert County explained, "It's been a challenge for people to earn the right to vote, and to take it away, it really has to be something that is unforgiven, heinous," Miller said. "What this means here is that people who have returned to society, repaid their debt to society, they're back in society, we want to reincorporate them into society. … We want them to be able to hold their head high, and that's what this is all about."
Jane Henderson, executive director of Communities United said that once the law goes into effect, "we have a month to register as many people as we can."