WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder called on a group of states Tuesday to restore voting rights to ex-felons, part of a push to fix what he sees as flaws in the criminal justice system that have a disparate impact on racial minorities.
“It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision,” Holder said, targeting 11 states he said continue to restrict voting rights for former inmates, 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,” Holder told a symposium on criminal justice at Georgetown University.
On a topic with racial overtones, Holder said 2.2 million black citizens, or nearly one in 13 African-American adults, are banned from voting because of these laws, and he said the ratio climbs to one in five in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.
“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.”