Larry Hogan on Government Reform
And isn't it time that we finally pass the Redistricting Reform Act so we can remove the politics and the politicians from drawing their own district lines? Free and fair elections are perhaps the most basic promise that those in power must provide to citizens.
The people of Maryland desperately want--and certainly deserve--balance, fairness, and bipartisanship in our state. An overwhelming majority of all Marylanders all parties and from all walks of life strongly support this legislation. But last year, this critically important reform legislation was hidden in a drawer. This year, the people deserve to have it come to the floor of both the House and the Senate for an up or down vote.
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.