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Officials too often fail to recognize voting rights of ex-offenders | READER COMMENTARY

Latasha Fason, center, and voting rights advocates speak outside Baltimore elections offices. Fason was sent a letter saying she could not register to vote because of a felony conviction, despite a 2016 state law that ensures Marylanders convicted of felonies can register to vote as soon as they are released from prison
Latasha Fason, center, and voting rights advocates speak outside Baltimore elections offices. Fason was sent a letter saying she could not register to vote because of a felony conviction, despite a 2016 state law that ensures Marylanders convicted of felonies can register to vote as soon as they are released from prison (Alison Knezevich)

Your coverage regarding the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the voting rights of Latasha Fason (“Advocates say Baltimore woman convicted of felony mistakenly told she can’t register to vote," Oct. 21) highlights the issues we as former felons and voting rights advocates face constantly when trying to educate and mobilize a new bloc of voters who have consistently been overlooked and disenfranchised for decades.

Since 1851, those incarcerated awaiting trial or convicted only of a misdemeanor have had the right to vote '"behind the walls," but most folks chose to focus merely on those convicted of a felony, who were at one time permanently excluded from voting. However, after the passage of legislation in 2015, and the override of Governor Larry Hogan’s veto in 2016, those formerly convicted of a felony are now also eligible to vote if they are no longer incarcerated, regardless of whether or not they are still on parole or probation or how many felonies they may have on their record.

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The problem that still exists is: Most members of the Board of Elections, and those responsible for ensuring their right to vote is afforded to them, don’t fully understand the law. That is how Ms. Fason was mistakenly refused her right to vote, and how dozens of other voters have for years now been excluded from the voting process. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot vote if you are no longer behind bars, because the law is simple: If you are home, you can vote!

Nicole Hanson-Mundell

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The writer is the Executive Director of Out for Justice, a prisoner advocacy organization

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