The Democrats in Maryland have been in a daze ever since Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in November of 2014. How could this have happened? How could a Republican win in a state which is essentially owned and operated by the Democrats who hold a nearly two to one advantage in voter registration? Clearly something had to be done, but the idea of examining their message and policies to find out why their voters were rebelling was out of the question. The obvious answer was to simply round up some additional Democrat voters. But where to find them?
Easy peasy. They simply voted to change the law and allow recently released felons who are still on parole or probation to vote. Hogan vetoed the measure, but the state legislature has now overridden him, clearing the path for tens of thousands of happy new Democrats to come to the polls.
The legislature on Tuesday narrowly overturned Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to extend voting rights to felons before they complete probation and parole.
The reversal both dealt a political blow to the Republican governor, who lobbied to prevent the bill from becoming law, and set the stage for an estimated 20,000 former inmates to cast ballots in Baltimore’s primary election for mayor and City Council this spring…
The bill was the sixth that Hogan vetoed from last year’s General Assembly, and the sixth the Democratic-controlled legislature reinstated this year. The House of Delegates voted to override Hogan’s veto last month, and on Tuesday, the Senate voted 29-18 to overrule the governor.
This wound up producing much harsher vitriol than nearly any other issue under debate. Democrats in the state senate began receiving, “”the most vicious hate mail you can possibly imagine” in response to the veto override. Social media erupted with anger, including some over the top threats and anonymous users wishing harm on the members and their families. At this point, though, the deal seems to be done.
Thomas V. Miller, the president of the Maryland Senate, defended the move, arguing that felons have paid their debt to society and just want to return to the fold along with the rest of their fellow citizens. But as Hans von Spakovsky and Roger Clegg point out at National Review, this looks like nothing more than a case of trying to round up more Democrat votes. If they truly cared about the integration of these recently released felons, why wouldn’t they move to restore the many other rights they lose in Maryland?
What Miller doesn’t mention is that under Maryland law, like other states, you don’t just lose your right to vote when you are convicted of a felony — Maryland also bars felons from owning a gun or serving on a jury. The state allows licensing boards to deny an application or impose sanctions on a current license holder for individuals convicted of “drug crimes.” Licensing boards as varied as cosmetology and architecture are also allowed to deny or suspend the license of an applicant who has been convicted of any felony or even “a misdemeanor that is directly related to the fitness and qualification of the applicant or licensee.”
There is nothing barring the state Department of Corrections or sheriff’s offices from doing background checks and refusing to hire felons. More generally, felons can be barred from any other state employment positions that require a background check or are designated state personnel-management positions.
All of this is true, but we’re also overlooking one of the chief points which Maryland’s president of the senate and his supporters fail to mention. Each state obviously has the right to restrict the voting rights of those who have proven themselves untrustworthy. This varies from state to state, but it’s an accepted legal practice. If Maryland wishes to do away with such restrictions they are free to do so, but that’s not what they’re doing here. The actual felons still in prison can’t vote, even under the new rules, and nobody is proposing that they should. Miller is defending this move as restoring the rights of those who have paid their debt to society. This is straight up malfeasance. The legislation applies to those who have been physically released from behind prison walls, but are still on parole and/or probation. They are still not done paying their debt. These particular felons are under the watchful eye of the law enforcement system to see if they can be trusted before cutting them loose entirely.
No matter, though. Hope and change have arrived in Maryland, and just in time for the primary races in Baltimore. Funny how that works, eh?