Ex-felons could regain their voting rights while on parole or probation under a bill passed Monday night by the Maryland Senate.
The vote for SB340 was 29 to 18, with senators split over the wisdom of letting ex-felons register before they've fully completed all the terms of their sentences, as the law now requires.
Sen. Michael J. Hough, a Frederick County Republican, argued that they ought to finish any parole or probation first and pay any required restitution. To do otherwise, he contended, would be "sending a bad message."
And Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, argued that as the bill now stands, ex-felons who violate their parole or probation could wind up voting while back in prison.
"We are making a flawed system more flawed," Simonaire warned.
But Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore city Democrat and the bill's sponsor, countered that 15 to 20 other states already let ex-felons vote while on parole and probation, and that two states even let convicts vote while still serving time.
The bill now goes to the House.