WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder is putting the weight of the Obama administration behind restoring voting rights to former felons, calling laws that disenfranchise millions of Americans “unnecessary and unjust,” and saying they are rooted in “centuries-old conceptions of justice that were too often based on exclusion, animus, and fear.”
Holder, who has made criminal justice reform a central focus of his over the past several months, said the policies had a disparate impact on minority communities and echoed those enacted during the post-Civil War era.
“By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes,” Holder said during a speech at a criminal justice reform event hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday. “They undermine the reentry process and defy the principles of accountability and rehabilitation that guide our criminal justice policies. And however well-intentioned current advocates of felony disenfranchisement may be, the reality is that these measures are, at best, profoundly outdated.”
Such laws disenfranchise an estimated 5.8 million Americans, more than the individual populations of 31 states, Holder said. He called Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a “leader” on the issue of restoring voting rights to former felons, and said Paul’s “vocal support for restoring voting rights for former inmates shows that this issue need not break down along partisan lines.”
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