Eric Holder Wants Ex-Felons to Get Their Voting Rights Back

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 11 2014 2:05 PM

Eric Holder Wants Ex-Felons to Get Their Voting Rights Back

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If Holder's proposed reform moves forward, millions of Americans could regain voting rights.

Photo by Bertil Enevag Ericson/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday urged states to repeal laws that bar ex-felons from voting after they have served their time behind bars, a proposal that would restore voting rights to millions of Americans if it were to be enacted.

"These restrictions are not only unnecessary and unjust, they are also counterproductive," Holder said during a news-making speech at Georgetown University. "By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes."

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Here's more on the reasoning behind the proposal and what it means for the national debate, via the Washington Post:

Holder said that current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society. He pointed to a recent study, which showed that felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote again had a lower recidivism rate. ...
Holder does not have the authority to force states to change their laws, but his request could influence the debate to restore voting rights. His appeal is part of a broader effort currently underway by the Justice Department to reform the criminal justice system, which U.S. officials say often treats minority groups unfairly.

By Holder's count, a total of 11 states currently restrict voting rights after a person has been released from prison and is no longer on probation and parole, laws that disenfranchise roughly 5.8 million Americans. Of that group, about 2.2 million are black citizens—or nearly one in 13 African-American adults.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.

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