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01/28/2016 | Fighting for an Inclusive Democracy

Restoring the Right to Vote in Maryland

On January 20, 2016, the Maryland House of Delegates voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation that would restore the right to vote for Marylanders upon release from prison. The Maryland Senate is expected to take up the override on February 5, and if approved, over 40,000 Marylanders who are on probation or parole will have their right to vote restored. 

For over a year, the Center for Popular Democracy has been working with our state partner, Maryland Communities United, to organize a diverse coalition of grassroots organizations, reentry organizations, labor, community groups, faith leaders and others to help introduce and pass rights restoration legislation. With formerly incarcerated citizens taking the lead, the coalition mobilized broad support for restoring the voting rights of returning citizens who live, work, pay taxes and raise their families in the community. “To build power to create change on issues affecting our community – education, housing, criminal justice – we need to have the right to vote,” said Perry Hopkins, a formerly incarcerated citizen and an organizer with Communities United.

The restoration of rights legislation passed last session with large majorities in both chambers but was prevented from becoming law by Governor Hogan’s veto. Unwilling to accept defeat of the legislation, the coalition has been working with the bill’s sponsors, Delegate Cory McCray and Senator Joan Carter Conway to organize support – both inside the State House and across Maryland -- to override the Governor’s veto in 2016.

The override victory in the House of Delegates was due in large part due to the dedication of constituents in the community as well as faith, labor and community leaders. The coalition is now mobilizing to win in the Senate when it comes up for a vote next month. With the 2016 primary and general elections fast approaching, CPD is working to ensure that the more than 40,000 returning citizens have a voice their democracy. 


Emma Greenman, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy for Center for Popular Democracy said in response to the win in the House of Delegates:

“Democracy is on the March in Maryland. This is one step in a long fight to bring the voices of the most marginalized into our democratic system.

“This is a critical time for our democracy. With nearly 5.8 million Americans shut out of the democratic process because of a prior criminal conviction, we will be working to empower states across the country to follow Maryland’s lead and expand democracy. Our state partners in other states are looking at Maryland’s example as a model to restore the vote in their communities.”