Why Restoring the Right to Vote to Formerly Incarcerated People Can Be the Impetus for Changing Thousands of Lives
Date:  01-05-2016

Can giving a person a second chance be meaningful if the right to vote is denied?
Via the Washington Post

The meaning of the vote to an ex-prisoner

by William C. Smith, Jr.

January 1, 2016

The tinderbox of failed economic policies, stifled educational opportunity and strained community relationships with law enforcement was set ablaze in Baltimore this summer with the death of Freddie Gray. Just 30 miles to the south, residents in Montgomery County sifted through a range of emotions and wondered how this could happen in our state, a place that prides itself on diversity and opportunity. Such incidents have thrust a set of very difficult issues into the public discourse, issues that are often beneath the surface but that serve as a pretext for our daily interactions with one another.

Thanks to the work of many of my colleagues — young leaders such as delegates Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore) and Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s) — we in the legislature took a critical step toward reforming our broken criminal justice system by passing a bill that would restore the rights of convicted felons to vote after being released from prison, instead of waiting for the completion of parole or probation. Understanding that there is no silver bullet to solve the problems that ail our criminal justice system, we can help lay a foundation upon which all Marylanders have the opportunity to live to their fullest potential. This can be accomplished by decriminalizing some nonviolent offenses, such as drug offenses, providing economic opportunities for those with criminal records and enabling voting — the opportunity to participate in the most fundamental practice of representative democracy.

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