Monday, March 26, 2007

Felon voting rights are on brink of passage

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ANNAPOLIS — Repeat felons would regain the right to vote under a bill that is nearing final passage in the House, following its approval in the Senate on Friday.

Senators voted 28-19 to immediately restore the voting privileges of people convicted of two or more felonies after they have completed their sentences. Repeat felons now must wait three years to regain their voting privileges.

One of the five Democrats who opposed the bill said convicted felons lose their voting privileges for life once they commit multiple crimes. ‘‘You’ve got to draw the line somewhere,” said Sen. James Brochin (D-Dist. 42) of Towson.

But advocates said certain rights to repeat felons should be reinstated as an incentive to obey the law.

‘‘We want them to be individuals who are upstanding in our communities,” said Sen. Verna L. Jones (D-Dist. 44) of Baltimore.

If passed, Maryland will join 37 other states that have already adopted legislation to restore voting rights to felons, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach.