Monday, February 13, 2006

Felon Voting Rights in Maryland

Here is an issue upon which I am torn, unlike many of my colleagues on the right. When, if ever, should a convicted felon have his voting rights restored? The Washington Times opines on an on-going effort related to voting rights in Maryland.
Under current Maryland law, nonviolent first-time felons can vote after a three-year waiting period, among other restrictions. But state law prohibits felons twice convicted of violent crimes, such as rape and murder, from voting. [Delegate Salima Siler] Marriott's bill -- House Bill 603, which has 37 cosponsors, all Democrats -- would end these restrictions. (It needs 71 votes to pass the House.) Doing so is worthwhile because it would "restore some amount of dignity" to the newly freed felons, state Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Walker explained to S.A. Miller of The Washington Times.
Generally, if a person has served their time, in my book they have paid their debt and should be restored to full citizenship (which is why one part of me has a problem with sex offender registration--the other part of me is a father and therefore not rational by definition on this matter). But I can see exceptions for repeat, violent offenders, even repeat non-violent offenders since they have demonstrated throught their actions a disdain for society and therefore should not be accorded society's rights and privileges.

This is a tough question. Of course, the blatantly partisan purposes behind this bill also just gall me as well. Now, I don't know if giving felons the right to vote immediately after release is going to increase the turnout among a class of individuals who are probably not inclined to vote anyway, but it will among the so-called "rights" groups.

On a slightly different note, it appears as thought the Democrats in MD are imploding on a grand scale. They have demonstrated an ability to irritate a large segment of the population by not allowing a referendum on a gay marriage ban amendment. Now they are taking a somewhat controversial public stand on an issue that most people simply don't care about. At this point, they seem intent to hand the election to the GOP. As the Times editors note:
Maryland Democrats these days have a serious political problem called political competition. Four years ago, voters elected a Republican governor for the first time since 1966, and Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele this year has a fighting chance to win the seat held for three decades by Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes. So the Democrats, led by Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, chairman of Baltimore's delegation, and Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman have apparently decided that in order to recapture the governorship and remain the dominant party in Maryland, they may need the votes of murderers, robbers and rapists.

Makes you wonder.

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