Many people may be aware that according to existing laws, ex-felons in Maryland are not allowed to vote immediately after they complete their prison sentences. Instead, they have to wait until the end of their probation period and parole sentence, which can sometimes last for decades. Understandably, the matter is much debated but the law still remains in effect. In fact, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a 2015 bill that sought to reinstate the voting rights of ex-felons immediately after their release from prison.
In an effort to change the situation, more than 100 ex-felons and community members recently held a rally in Baltimore protesting against this situation. According to those protestors, if the bill to end disfranchisement had not been vetoed by the Governor, more than 40,000 Maryland residents would have regained their right to vote in the upcoming elections. Therefore, they are now demanding an overruling of that veto. In order to justify their claims, several ex-felons pointed out that since the end of their incarceration, they have been working and paying taxes like other citizens and; therefore, they should also have voting rights.
Interestingly, the objective of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965, was to end discrimination over the right to vote, but, over the years, several courts have expressed apprehension when it comes to granting voting rights for ex-felons. However, social science researchers believe that restoring these voting rights may be able to help ex-felons return to mainstream life more smoothly and with a greater sense of responsibility. Moreover, the American Probation and Parole Association stated that disfranchisement of the type that is prevalent does not necessarily serve any legitimate law-enforcement purpose.
Whether the voting rights of ex-felons will be reinstated is still to be seen. However, this is yet another example of how some of the most basic rights, which the United States of America grants, can be denied in the event of a felony conviction. Therefore, in order to ensure that a person who is facing a felony charge does not lose a fundamental right, it is important to take prompt action. Timely legal intervention can help save a person from the various difficulties that a felony conviction can cause.
Source: The American Prospect, “The Growing Movement to Restore Voting Rights to Former Felons,” Rachel M. Cohen, Aug. 7, 2015