The Maryland legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill last week to restore voting rights to nearly 40,000 citizens with past criminal convictions.
Current Maryland law prohibits individuals from voting until they have finished probation and parole. The new measure — which now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for his signature — simplifies the process by allowing an individual to become eligible to vote when released from prison, or if they were never incarcerated in the first place.
“Americans believe in second chances,” said Tomas Lopez. “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.”
The measure was supported by a broad array of Maryland groups who form the Unlock the Vote coalition, which includes faith, racial justice, and civil rights leaders.
Maryland’s action comes as rights restoration continues to gain bipartisan support, with bills introduced in Congress and several states in recent months. More than 20 states, including Maryland, have improved their criminal disenfranchisement laws over the past two decades.