Monthly Archives: February 2016

In miniature, February 27

  • Hogan derangement syndrome afflicts some Democrats [Washington Post] “If your friend jumped off the Empire State Building, would you jump too?” No. And neither would our governor [Baltimore Sun on Chris Christie endorsement of Trump]
  • New paper: “Achieving Efficient Government and Regulatory Reform in Maryland” [Randolph May and Michael Horney, Free State Foundation]
  • Some numbers on the conference center proposed with public dollars for downtown Frederick [Ken Kellar, The Tentacle, earlier]
  • Yet more gun laws from Annapolis? Rick Blatchford sniffs the politics behind them [Carroll County Times; related on constitutional problems with last round of new gun laws]
  • Fail to stop daughter’s 20 year old boyfriend from bringing over beer, go to jail [Washington Post on “Alex and Calvin’s Law” bill sailing through Annapolis]
  • Paid leave from our job? Free stuff, sounds great? Unless of course we wind up paying [WaPo, more, NFIB, Maryland Reporter]

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“Picturing Frederick Douglass”

New book on images of the great Marylander who stood for Emancipation, reviewed by Diana Schaub [Liberty and Law] Image by Billy Hathorn (National Portrait Gallery, public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
Frederick Douglass at National Portrait Gallery IMG 4542

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Filed under History

In miniature, February 15

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Should Maryland give felons on probation and parole a right to vote?

The Maryland legislature will soon decide, perhaps by a margin of a single vote, whether to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto and extend voting rights to some classes of felons on parole or probation. A few thoughts:

  • The proposed change would replace a reasonably bright-line, understandable rule on felons and voting (finish your sentence first) with a mishmash new standard that would spread confusion among voters and elections boards and is based on no coherent rationale. Clear rules of predictable and understandable application are desirable for their own sake and especially important in voting, an area in which confusion and disagreement about legality bring special dangers. That’s one reason the editorial advisory board of the Daily Record, the newspaper of the Maryland legal profession, says Gov. Hogan’s veto should stand and that there are other, better ways to pursue the goal of reintegration for offenders.
  • Proponents offer what they claim is evidence that restoring a right to vote earlier promotes rehabilitation of offenders. It is very difficult to separate correlation from causation on this, however. Yes, well-rehabilitated offenders are more likely to vote, but that does not mean that the second caused the first.
  • Proponents also argue that earlier recovery of voting privileges is needed to combat stigma. A couple of thoughts on that: First, all criminalization necessarily stigmatizes unless the public stops believing that criminality ordinarily relates to guilt, in which case we are in very big trouble for other reasons. Second, parole/probation involves continued deprivation of a comprehensive bundle of civil rights, many of which would otherwise be of constitutional standing, such as travel, association, firearms access, and so forth. Of these, I suspect losses in areas like travel and association are far more stigmatizing than loss of a voting right because they often must be explained to others (“sorry, I can’t come to your wedding because…”). With voting, we have a secret ballot and a system set up so as generally to protect people from “You didn’t vote last week and I need to know why” social pressure.

Both sides bring ideological preconceptions to this dispute. But of all the ways in which one might address Maryland’s genuine problems of over-criminalization and over-incarceration, it seems especially a token of ideological faith to have settled on this one as a key priority.

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Filed under Law

Upcoming talks on redistricting reform

I’ll be speaking to community groups around Maryland in coming months about gerrymandering, fair districting methods and the findings of Governor Larry Hogan’s Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission. Some upcoming events:

* Feb. 11: Frederick County Republican Club, Red Horse Restaurant, Frederick.

* Feb. 22: Wicomico County Republican Club, Salisbury.

* Feb. 24: Frederick County League of Women Voters, Burr Artz Library, Frederick.

* Mar. 15: Queen Anne’s County Republican Club, Centreville.

* Apr. 20: Hagerstown Rotary Club, Fountain Head Country Club, Hagerstown.

For more information on these events check local listings, Google and social media. To have me speak about redistricting reform at your group, contact me at whatmarylandneeds at

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Filed under Policy