On the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, a group of 200 ex-offenders, their family members, and supporters are planning a rally at McKeldin Square this evening to call for an override of Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill that would have allowed felons to vote after they are released from prison.
The rally begins at 5:30 p.m. and will feature speakers. Around 6 p.m., participants will march a few blocks west on Pratt Street to the statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall outside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse.
One of the organizers, Davon Neverdon, himself a felon, described the need for this group to organize and be heard.
"I am a felon and I think my worth to the community is getting overshadowed because of my felonship," he said.
According to a press release from Communities United, a grassroots group helping to organize the event, "Black Marylanders make up 30 percent of our state's population, nearly three-quarters of its prison population, and 65 percent of those disenfranchised by felony convictions. The majority of Maryland residents still barred from voting live in Baltimore City."
Hogan vetoed the bill last May, a month after the Maryland General Assembly passed the measure. As The Washington Post notes, an override requires 85 votes from the House of Delegates and 28 votes from the Senate.
In letters to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Hogan wrote, "The fact is that persons released from incarceration on parole or mandatory supervision are still serving their time as a debt to society for their actions."
Currently, felons have their voting rights restored after they have completed parole or probation. According to The Sun, about 40,000 people would be affected by the law change.