Felons Gain New Voting Rights in Maryland

They're free to vote upon release from prison
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2016 5:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Approximately 40,000 felons will likely be able to vote in Maryland's presidential primary after the state's senate expanded voting rights to criminals still on parole or probation, Frontline reports. According to the Baltimore Sun, the vote on Tuesday overrode a veto from Maryland's governor. At issue was whether Maryland's felons should be able to vote immediately upon release from prison or whether they should have to finish all terms of their sentence first. With the vote, Maryland becomes the 14th state to restore voting rights to felons once they're released from prison, Mother Jones reports. “These are people living in the community,” a criminal justice advocate tells Frontline. “They participate in other areas of the social contract. They want to participate in democracy and should have a role in deciding who represents them.”

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Nearly 6 million US citizens can't vote because they're felons. The fight to restore their voting rights has been mostly split along party lines, with Republicans favoring tougher restrictions. Felons are more likely to be black and vote Democrat. Supporters of restoring voting rights argue it helps felons reintegrate into society. Most states require felons to finish all terms of their sentence before their voting rights are restored. A dozen states can prevent felons from every voting again, and the trend in recent years has been toward further restrictions on voting rights. But that could be changing, staring with the Maryland vote. Three other states are currently considering expanding the voting rights of felons. (Read more voting rights stories.)

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