The political framework in the state of Maryland is building up to make the next election very interesting. Just a couple of weeks ago, DeRay McKesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, announced that he’s running for mayor of Baltimore. Now, Maryland has given recently released felons the right to vote in the upcoming election.
In Maryland, felons previously weren’t allowed to vote while on probation or parole. After overturning Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill, the Maryland Legislature voted to overrule him, according to The Baltimore Sun. Now more than 20,000 recently released felons will be able to vote in time for Baltimore’s primary election for mayor this spring.
The decision took some time, after heated debate and several delays, to gain more support. Given the disproportionate effects of incarceration on the state’s black population, giving released felons the right to vote upon release helps counteract that and gives them the ability to play a larger role in what happens in their communities.
“I am overwhelmed with joy,” Marcus Toles, 27, told The Baltimore Sun. “I can finally have my voice heard after doing my time and trying to be a productive member of society.”
Toles reportedly would’ve been one of the thousands that would’ve missed the upcoming election cycle because they wouldn’t have completed their parole or probation in time. He now says he’ll vote in every election that he can.
“We’ve done our time, you take our taxes,” Toles said. “It’s hard enough we get every door slammed in our faces. We paid our debt to society. We’re out here striving not to go back, and you want to take our right to vote? I think our voices should be heard.”
This decision still has its fair share of opposers in the local government, including Governor Hogan.
“Only a tiny, radical minority supports this idea. But they did it anyway,” Hogan wrote on a Facebook post. “They don’t seem to care what most Marylanders want. Why did they do it anyway? Because they can.”
He went on to claim that many local politicians ended their careers with the controversial vote. Local politicians that voted for the bill have been receiving hate mail after being inspired by the governor’s disapproval of the decision, according to The Washington Post.
As of now, Maryland joined Washington D.C. and 13 other states that allow felons to vote as soon as they’re released from prison. But there are 18 states that don’t allow felons to vote until they’ve completed their parole or probation and 12 others that have waiting periods.
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