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MD Senator Joins Unlikely Ally to Promote Voting Rights for Ex-Felons

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Senator Ben Cardin joined an unlikely ally, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, to call for federal legislation that would allow ex-felons to vote in federal elections.

Paul’s legislation would allow those convicted of non-violent crimes to regain the right to vote while Cardin’s measure is much broader.

Cardin called this prohibition on voting rights for ex-felons, the Jim Crow laws of our time hitting the African American community especially hard.

"Eight percent of the African American population or 2 million African Americans are disenfranchised. Currently, one out of every thirteen African Americans are unable to vote because of a felony disenfranchisement which is a rate four times higher than the non-African American population."

But the Maryland Democrat added that it was in the interest of the nation as well.

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Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky)

"It's also in our self interest to do this. Recidivism rates will decline if people are fully engaged in their community. And, the way to be fully engaged in their community is being able to participate in elections. They have a vested interest."

In Maryland residents with felony convictions can exercise the right to vote after they have served their terms including probation and parole.

Twenty other states including neighboring Delaware and West Virginia have similar laws.

Don Rush is the News Director at Delmarva Public Media. An award-winning journalist, Don reports major local issues of the day, from sea level rise, to urban development, to the changing demographics of Delmarva.