Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday called on states to repeal laws that prohibit felons from voting after their release from prison, urging changes that could allow millions more across the country to cast ballots. In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Holder said, “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.” Holder said that current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society. He pointed to a recent study that showed that felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote again had a lower recidivism rate.
“These restrictions are not only unnecessary and unjust, they are also counterproductive,” Holder said. “By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes.”
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 underway by the Justice Department to overhaul the criminal justice system, which U.S. officials say often treats minority groups unfairly.