- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

ANNAPOLIS The Maryland Senate approved a measure that would let twice-convicted felons vote three years after completing their sentences and paying fines and restitution.
The Senate bill, unlike that approved by the House, would prohibit anyone convicted of two violent crimes from voting.
Even that provision didn't satisfy Sen. Walter M. Baker, upper Eastern Shore Democrat, who asked for a delay in the final vote.
Mr. Baker said that, given an extra day, he would offer an amendment to create an irrevocable trust with authority to cast votes for victims as long as the felons who killed them remained alive.
Mr. Baker's proposal for a delay failed 16-30, and the Senate approved the bill 26-20.
Black legislators have advocated for the restoration of voting rights. The current law, they argue, has disproportionately disenfranchised blacks, who have been convicted and incarcerated at higher rates than white defendants.
Most Democrats, including all nine black senators, voted for the measure. One Republican also voted for it: Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, a white legislator and past president of the Howard County NAACP.
Eight Democrats joined 12 Republicans in opposing the bill.
Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the law and justice panel of the Legislative Black Caucus, said "half a loaf" is better than none and that the change will restore the voting rights of many people who have paid their debt to society.
Mrs. Marriott said she would recommend that the House tailor its bill to the Senate version to avoid getting bogged down in negotiations that could kill the measure with little more than a week remaining in the legislative session.
"Why should we muck around with a conference when this is an election year?" Mrs. Marriott asked.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the Senate version, said his spokesman, Mike Morrill.
Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the Senate bill, said some clergy who argue that the legislation follows Judeo-Christian principles of redemption are upset that both the House and Senate weakened the original proposal.
As introduced, the bills would have restored the vote to any people convicted of any crime as soon they finished their sentence.
Since 1974, Maryland law has allowed people convicted of one "infamous crime" to vote after serving their sentence and paying their debt.
A crime is classified as infamous if it involves deceit, but the category encompasses a broad range of offenses from passing bad checks to rape and murder. Roughly 500 offenses qualify as infamous crimes, according to state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.
Anyone convicted of a second infamous crime of any kind is permanently barred from voting in Maryland under current law.
Maryland and 12 other states restrict felons' voting rights.


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