Amid the fight over Maryland’s drug laws, the Governor’s veto of them, and the fight to overturn that veto, something else was vetoed by the Governor: The right for convicted felons to vote.
The issue is becoming a hot topic nationally. In fact, the Huffington Post recently ran an article studying how states deal with the issue.
Why Allow Felons to Vote?
It may initially seem counterintuitive to allow felons to vote. But proponents have both legal and civil reasons for why it is a good idea.
Legally, the logic is that these individuals have fulfilled their obligations to society by serving their sentences. They have completed most of their punishment and should be able to continue to live as any other citizen would. For some, a sentence can seem lifelong when voting rights are restricted.
There is also a strong argument that the restoration of voting rights prevents recidivism–that is, the return to crime or repeating of past crimes. Disenfranchised, detached citizens are not helpful for society. Individuals who have a voice that is heard by way of the voting booth have a stake in their neighborhoods, feel like meaningful members of society, and thus are less likely to repeat past crimes.
Many people restricted from voting may have completed a prison sentence and have since reassimilated into society, holding down jobs and becoming pillars of their community. But because they are still technically on some level of post-conviction parole, they still have no voting rights.
In many cases, even the victim’s families want convicted felons to reform themselves, shape up, and become productive members of society. That often is encouraged by allowing felons to vote.
States Vary in Felon Voting Laws
Almost every state other than Vermont and Maine restrict convicted felons from voting to some degree. Many others have varying levels of restrictions, from preventing those on probation from voting, to prohibiting those who have completed their sentence from voting. Maryland does allow those who have completed their sentence to vote, but not those on probation.
Although 18 states recently considered laws expanding voting rights to some extent, only Wyoming has passed one.
The number of people affected by these laws can be significant. In Florida, for example, approximately 10% of the total voting age population is affected by conviction-related voting restrictions. Florida doesn’t even allow those who have completed their sentence to vote–voters must apply five to seven years after completion in order to restore voting rights. Maryland is only at 1.4%. Some states, such as Oregon, Montana or North Dakota, have rates at .5% or below. The national average is 2.5%.
A criminal conviction can have long-lasting ramifications. You need attorneys that can advise you on the consequences of all your options if you are accused of committing a crime. The attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience at all stages of the criminal defense process. If you or someone you know was arrested or charged with a crime in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.