Holder calls for restoring ex-cons' voting rights
February 11th, 2014
09:32 AM ET
8 years ago

Holder calls for restoring ex-cons' voting rights

Washington (CNN) - One of Washington's oddities of late is Attorney General Eric Holder's liberal social justice goals finding unity with the tea party movement's curb-big-government proposals led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

On Tuesday, the alliance is on display as Holder, for the first time as attorney general, calls for states to automatically restore voting rights to prisoners who are disenfranchised upon conviction. Paul, who supports voter ID laws Holder has sought to block, has pushed to overturn disenfranchisement laws that he says affect too many black men.

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Holder, Paul and Lee are pushing to overhaul the nation's criminal justice system, seeking to discard mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes and reduce costly prison spending. The three are appearing Tuesday at a Georgetown Law School forum sponsored by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Eleven U.S. states restrict or completely deny voting rights to prisoners even after they've completed sentences, probation and parole. Florida, among the most restrictive, bars 10% of its population from voting as a result of such laws. About 5.8 million Americans are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions, Holder says.

The laws have a major impact on black voters, with nearly one in 13 black adults across the U.S. - it's one in five in Florida, Virginia and Kentucky - unable to vote, Holder says.

"It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision," Holder was to say in prepared remarks. "These restrictions are not only unnecessary and unjust, they are also counterproductive. By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes."

Holder has been busy in the past year working to build his legacy on civil rights issues. Beyond sentencing laws, he has pushed to restore the Justice Department's voting rights oversight curtailed by the Supreme Court. He has become a gay rights hero by leading the effort to overturn the government's stance on same-sex marriage. In recent days he called on memories of the historic black civil rights struggle to explain his moves to expand same-sex marriage benefits in federal legal matters.

After a tumultuous first four years in office, these moves could help boost the assessment of Holder's tenure, which he has said he expects to last into later this year.

Filed under: Eric Holder • Mike Lee • Rand Paul
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    If the "debt to society" has been paid, why shouldn't they vote?

    February 11, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. tom l

    Another instance where Rand Paul proves he's not your typical repub and shares the same concerns as those on the left. They'll still make fun of his hair or call him Aqua Buddha but he has demonstrated that with the liberals that are actually intellectually honest, he shares similar values. First it was with the drones and our foreign follies and now this. This is gonna be tough for the Tampa Timmys of the world to be able to dissect and still slam Paul. Sniffit, the best slicer and dicer ever, should be able to help them form their opinions, though...

    February 11, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. Ddtgwt

    Holder's legacy will be Fast and Furious and all the lies he told to Congress.

    February 11, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  4. M Gonzales In NM

    Wow just wow, Just when I think this man cant get any more incompetent he goes and brings his office too a new low.

    February 11, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    Once your debt has been paid to society, you should automatically get your voting rights back. There shouldn't be any special stipulations around it.

    February 11, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Any of you wingnuts have a problem with Albert Gonzales?

    February 11, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. WritingOnTheWall

    if you value your right to vote, then don't do the crime.

    States do not want convicted felons influencing their laws because of the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

    another instance of overstepping States rights.

    February 11, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    So they can vote to make crime easier to commit??????

    No thanks Holder.........we already have too much corruption in America.

    February 11, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. jim

    don't know about other states but in florida they restore your voting rights about a year after your sentence is complete.so this is more BS from this administration

    February 11, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  10. Abbey

    No surprise. Democrats in the future will need every vote they can get.

    February 11, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  11. Abbey

    More proof that this administration has no business running the country. Shame on you voters who gave the country this mess.

    February 11, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  12. siouxlouie

    Are there any data that support Holder's claim that loss of the franchise makes ex-cons more likely to reoffend or is he just bloviating again.

    February 11, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    Good. If a person has paid their debt to society, there is no point in limiting their rights as a citizen once that has been paid.

    February 11, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  14. CB FL

    @ jim You need to be more informed. After Rick Scott got elected he and Bondi passed a law that took those rights away. There are about 1.4 million people that this affected. They believed this large percentage of these people would vote for the DEM.

    February 11, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  15. much thunder...little rain

    holder just enforces the laws he likes ...by far the most bias ag of all time

    February 11, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  16. Tampa Tim

    Jim – what part of FL are you from?

    February 11, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. paul

    Each state currently has it's own rules, sime states allow ex-felons to vote as soonas they complete their sentence, others have them wait a year or two, others never let them vote again. Some will allow them to vote only if the state legeslature passes a special law specifically naming them and returning their right to vote.

    Truing the vote would require uniform practices not a hodge podge of rules.

    February 11, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. Dean

    More Democrat votes.

    February 11, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    tom l

    Another instance where Rand Paul proves he's not your typical repub and shares the same concerns as those on the left.
    Fifty years ago most libertarians were considered to be somewhat liberal in most of their thinking. Things changed after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, though. It gave rise to people with an ideology that is known today as neo-libertarian. Those would be the libertarians like Rand Paul who embrace greed, selfishness, and believe that bigotry is an expression of freedom of speech.

    February 11, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Dsnipes

    Rarely do I agree with Holder, but this is a very good call and has this conservative saying "You go Man!"

    A paid debt is a paid debt.

    February 11, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. smith

    This is stupid, like ex-cons care about voting.

    February 11, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  22. Tampa Tim

    As an ex con, I am glared smith shared his insight into voting.

    February 11, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. Fair is Fair

    I see no issue with this at all. And I'm certainly no fan of the AG.

    February 11, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. Rudy NYC


    This is stupid, like ex-cons care about voting.
    How long must people pay a debt to society? Do conservatives find it impossible to forgive and forget? Not only are these people blacklisted from being hired, they are excommunicated from society by denying them the right to vote.

    What are they supposed to do to survive once they get out of incarceration? They cannot get a job. They cannot get a loan for a car or tuition. They cannot vote. But, they can get their hands on all of the guns that they want, though.

    February 11, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. smith

    Well, most ex-cons don`t care about voting.

    February 11, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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