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Maryland’s felons now have the right to vote, before they complete probation or are paroled.

As the Baltimore Sun reports, the change came after a 29-18 vote in the Maryland Senate, overriding the last of six vetoes from Republican Governor Larry Hogan. The General-Assembly vote was delayed twice, in order for the sitting senators to gain enough support, and followed “an expansive debate that touched on resolving racial disparities in the criminal justice system and protecting victims of violent crime.” 

Per the Constitution, states are empowered to grant or deny felons the right to vote. Since America’s prison population is about 38 percent African-American, despite African-Americans comprising only 13 percent of the total U.S. population, denying that right disproportionately affects them. Nearly 8 percent of African-Americans in the U.S. are barred from the democratic process because of a felony conviction; in the general population, that figure is 1.8 percent. 

As the Sun reports:

“It’s unfair,” said Sen. Joanne C. Benson, a Democrat from Prince George’s County who said she got out of her sick bed in order to override the veto. She noted that the vast majority of people affected by the law are, like her, African-American. “The whole system is unfair,” she said.