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Eric Holder urges states to allow former prisoners to vote

Eric Holder recently urged states to allow former prisoners to vote.
Eric Holder recently urged states to allow former prisoners to vote.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

On Tuesday morning, during a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Attorney General Eric Holder urged states to let ex-prisoners vote. Currently there are 11 states that do not allow felons to vote ever again, even after they have completed their sentence and are no longer on parole or probation. He said, “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

Holder noted that currently 1 in 5 black adults in Florida, Kentucky, and Alabama cannot vote because of felony convictions. Nationally 5.8 million people cannot vote because of prior felonies.

In his speech, Holder put the current voting bans in a larger historical context: “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,” he said. Nationally, he noted that 1 in 13 black people cannot vote because of such disenfranchisement laws.

Holder also noted that the ability to vote was recently correlated with a lower recidivism rate in a Florida study and urged that allowing former prisoners to vote could be an important part of successful reintegration into society. He said, "By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes," he said. He concluded, saying of felon disenfranchisement, “It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values. These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed.”