- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates voted Wednesday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto on a bill to restore felons’ voting rights even if they’re on probation or parole.

The Democratic-controlled chamber passed the bill in a 85-56 vote, or exactly the three-fifths majority needed to override the veto.

Senators will take a final vote Thursday, but the House vote was considered the bigger hurdle, after delegates were just shy of the three-fifths tally when they passed the bill last year.

Republican opponents said felons who have been convicted of violent crimes like murder or rape should be forced to complete their full sentences as handed down by the courts, including parole or probation, before being able to vote.

“It is not forgiveness,” said Delegate Susan Aumann, Baltimore County Republican. “It is discretionary release to continue serving their sentence under supervision.”

But Democrats, who provided most of the votes for the override, said that ex-felons should not be doomed to the sidelines of society and that admitting them to the voter pool will integrate them and give them a say in how they are governed.

SEE ALSO: Bill targets Maryland’s civil asset forfeiture laws

“The vast majority of people affected by this law are regular people who have made a mistake and want to return to their communities are contribute to society, get jobs and pay taxes,” said Delegate Eric Luedtke, Montgomery Democrat. “They should not be taxed without representation.”

Delegate Cory McCray, Baltimore Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said failing to override the governor’s veto would have disenfranchised particular areas of the state.

He cited Baltimore-area ZIP codes that he said had disproportionately more released felons than other areas, and said restoring their right to vote is a civil rights issue.

“This is no way a silver bullet, but this is a step in the right direction,” Mr. McCray said.

The bill fell shy of the necessary majority when it passed last year, but three lawmakers changed the tally: Delegate Michael A. Jackson, Prince George’s Democrat who missed last year’s vote, voted yes; Delegate Elizabeth Proctor, a Prince George’s Democrat who replaced her late husband, supported the bill; and Delegate Pamela Beidle, Anne Arundel Democrat, switched her vote from “no” to “yes” this year.

The bill cleared the Senate with 32 votes last year — three more than needed to override the veto.

The House also overrode two other vetoes Wednesday. One measure would allow Howard County to tax online hotel-booking sites, and the other would restore funding the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, an art center in Anne Arundel County.

The Senate will vote Thursday on those three overrides, as well as bills for decriminalizing marijuana paraphernalia and civil asset forfeiture, in which police can seize people’s property if they are suspected of a crime.

• Anjali Shastry can be reached at ashastry@washingtontimes.com.

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