Attorney General Eric Holder: Restore Voting Rights to Ex-Cons

Holder points to 11 states as he calls for the end of what he sees as a flaw in the criminal-justice system.

Attorney General Eric Holder delivers a speech at the Swedish Parlament in Stockholm, Feb. 4, 2014. 

Bertil Enevag Ericson/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder is calling for a group of 11 states to restore voting rights to their ex-felons as part of his initiative to fix flaws in the criminal-justice system that have a disproportionate effect on minority groups, the Associated Press reports.

"It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision," Holder said, speaking at a symposium held at Georgetown University on Tuesday. The Justice Department has identified Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming, Tennessee and Virginia as restricting ex-inmates' voting rights even after they've finished their prison terms.

"Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans—5.8 million of our fellow citizens—are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions," he added.

Holder said that 2.2 million black citizens—that is, one in 13 black adults—end up being barred from voting because of the restrictive laws. In Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, the ratio rockets to 1 in 5.

"Although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable," Holder said.

Holder did recognize 23 states, including Nebraska and Washington state, that have made recent improvements. Although Virginia has adopted a policy that automatically restores voting rights to ex-prisoners convicted for nonviolent crimes, the policy comes only through an executive order from the governor. Holder wants to see legislation enacting permanent change.  

Read more at the Associated Press.

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