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General Assembly gives returning felons the vote

Rachel Baye

The state Senate gave returning felons the right to vote Tuesday when the majority-Democrat body narrowly overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto last year of the bill granting felons that right.

Under the measure, which takes effect next month, felons can vote as soon as they leave prison. Current law restores felons' voting rights after completion of their parole or probationary period.

Supporters of the measure have linked it to civil rights. Some have said that giving returning felons the right to vote helps keep them from a life of crime. Senate President Mike Miller said it's simply the right thing to do.

“People who are returned to society, they’ve paid their debt to society, they’re back in society," he said. "We want them to be able to hold their head high. And that’s what this is all about. … It’s just a question of living out the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Hogan’s position has been that until parole is completed, felons are still serving their sentences, despite being released from prison. Senate Republicans echoed that sentiment on Tuesday.

“If you committed an assault and you've harmed somebody, physically hurt them or whatever, you owe restitution. You have to make the victim whole. That's part of the process of paying your debt to society, and you have not finished your sentence until the restitution is paid,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings, a Republican from Baltimore and Harford counties. “That poor victim could be laying up in a hospital.”