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The Baltimore Sun

Former felons now have right to vote

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland applauds The Baltimore Sun's editorial warning about "scams" that could deter voters from coming to the polls ("Voter beware," Oct. 1) and would like to highlight yet another "scam"- this one coming from some government agencies themselves.

Recently, some local boards of elections have declined to register citizens with felony convictions, saying the ex-felons must prove they are eligible to vote.

The letters bearing this inaccurate message did not say why the citizens were deemed ineligible, how they could prove they were eligible to vote or by what date they had to do so.

But the fact is that two years ago, the ACLU and other groups helped pass a new law that restored voting rights to ex-offenders.

The new law is clear and simple - if you are out of prison and finished with any probation or parole supervision, you can vote.

There is no requirement that ex-offenders prove anything.

The ACLU is working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Justice Maryland and other groups to get the word out: Citizens with felony convictions who have served their time should not hesitate to go to the polls and exercise their right to vote.

Susan Goering, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the ACLU of Maryland.

County school board must listen to public

The Baltimore County school board and schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston are out of touch with the communities they are supposed to be serving and their employees.

The board's new procedure for public comment does not afford stakeholders an adequate opportunity to voice comments and concerns about issues affecting the schools.

Board policy has always limited the number of public comments allowed at meetings to 10. Now there will be public comments allowed only at every other school board meeting.

The school board is supposed to be advocating for the children and families of Baltimore County.

How can it do so without listening?

Donna McDonough, Perry Hall

The writer is a teacher at Pine Grove Elementary School.

Stop using racing as political football

In 1994, West Virginia and Delaware passed legislation that allowed racinos (slots parlors at racetracks) in those states ("Here's one way to call the slots tossup," Oct. 7).

Their goal, which was to bring extra revenue to the states and resurrect their horse racing industries, was realized almost immediately. The largest market for both states' slots parlors was their neighbor Maryland. Consequently, Maryland has debated the legalization of slot machines for 14 years.

To understand the time and money that our dysfunctional government has wasted, let's consider a few facts.

Every year for 14 years, Marylanders have wagered hundreds of millions of dollars in these two states, pumping money into their economies and their state coffers.

Those who do not believe this might note that the governor of Delaware recently publicly thanked Maryland for not passing slots for yet another year.

In 1994, Maryland had some of the best horse racing in the country, both Standardbred and thoroughbred. Now the industries are on life support and will surely die without a subsidy from slots revenue.

In this time frame, nine other states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Florida, have passed laws allowing slots at racetracks.

On a personal note, my son was preparing to go to first grade when the debate began and now is a sophomore in college. He, like every other Maryland child his age, was denied any benefit that an increase in education funding based on slots revenue would have provided.

In my opinion, Maryland politics has become a team sport with each team trying to amass as much political power as possible.

In this sport, horse racing has been the ball they play with - one that in the end just gets kicked around.

So when you vote on the slots referendum on Election Day, please vote with open eyes and a clear mind. Please do not vote because you root for one team or another.

Dan Myer, Salisbury

The writer is the treasurer of Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association.

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