Meeting in the heart of downtown, commercial Baltimore, various community organizations gathered yesterday, August 6, to hold signs proclaiming “Recall this Veto!” and “Communities United!” We were drumming up interest about an almost unknown issue: during last session Governor Hogan vetoed a bill that passed in the House and the Senate that would allow more than 40,000 Maryland residence to vote in the next election. This bill would grant suffrage to ex-felons immediately after they were released from prison and would cut down on the need for volunteer election officials to make judgments on who could and could not vote.
It was clearly apparent that the Unlock the Vote Rally was emotional for a lot of participants. When I got there, I was immediately handed a sign, a t-shirt, and a hug from an ex-felon who spoke of how thankful he was that people showed up to support him and others for a better future. At approximately 5:30, the leaders gathered everyone around to discuss the plan and start a chant: Overrule! Overrule! This Veto!
We marched a block or two from Mkelden Square to the Thurgood Marshall Statue, holding up some minor traffic and turning a lot of heads. One at the statue, we heard short speeches from half a dozen leaders, several of whom were ex-felons actively fighting for their voice to be heard. Some of the most touching speeches started with something along the lines of “I’m an ex-felon. I’m in my 60s now and have been free for 20 years. If we don’t override this veto I may never have a chance to vote in my life.” The constant theme throughout the event was the need to organize, to show up, and to make people aware that this is a Maryland issues rather than a Baltimore issue. Delegate Cory McCray, representative of the 45th legislative district, spoke as well. His parting words were, “if you’re not at the table then you’re on the menu. Let’s get our seat at the table!” As the rally came to a close, the last speaker appeared with a young boy on his shoulders. “This is our future,” he pointed to the boy, “we need to do this for them.” Following this proclamation were pledges to vote in the next election, to show up at the next even in Annapolis, and to not let this issue go unnoticed any longer.
Ultimately, this rally was short, sweet, and powerful. As this movement continue to grow and our communities continue to organize, I have no doubt that we will override that veto and unlock the vote!
Issues: Voting and Elections