The move echoes a concern in several other states, which have increasingly turned away from harsh criminal sentences and raised new questions about what happens to offenders once they are released, including their ability to participate fully in society. In Virginia, 1 in 5 African-Americans is disenfranchised, according to the Sentencing Project based in Washington, D.C.
In February, the Maryland State Senate overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and expanded voting rights to 40,000 ex-offenders. In that the case, the law actually went further than Virginia's policy by allowing ex-convicts to vote while on parole or probation.
But the policies have been controversial. Last December, newly elected Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) reversed an executive order by his Democratic predecessor to grant voting rights to ex-felons in the state once they had completed their sentences. Governor Bevin framed his opposition to the executive order signed by then-Gov. Steve Beshear (D) on procedural rather than ideological terms. "While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights, for example, it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people," he said in a statement.
The decision to change two of the county's nine early voting sites was made with a 3-2 vote along party lines on the Republican-led county Board of Elections. Many claimed the purpose was to make it harder for Democrats along the Route 29 corridor and Bethesda and Chevy Chase to access early voting. Van Hollen said the change would "have a major negative impact on the success of early voting in Montgomery County. We should do everything we can to make it easier for every citizen to vote. Unfortunately, the current early voting proposal makes it harder. It will create confusion, undercut early voting and same-day voter registration, and make it harder for low-income and elderly people and people of color to participate in our political process."
And while many said we would never elect a governor because of the low spending limits mandated in our public finance laws, I stand before you today as proof that the system does work.
We must replenish this fund as soon as possible and make it available for future candidates. Therefore, we will submit legislation to reinstate the voluntary check-off which allows a taxpayer to make a donation to go towards the public campaign financing system each year.
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