Political figures strongly opposed on other issues found common ground Tuesday at the Georgetown University Law Center as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Attorney General Eric Holder both voiced support for restoring voting rights to some ex-convicts. Paul is working on a bill, referred to as the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act, that would apply to federal elections, he said during a speech at the law center. “We think that if you had a nonviolent felony — we’re for getting you voting rights,” said the senator, who hails from one of handful of a states where felons can permanently lose access to the voting booth. Paul’s remarks come as Democratic Attorney Gen. Eric Holder urged states to scrap laws restricting voting rights for ex-cons who have served their sentences, completed probation, and paid all their fines.
Although many states have scaled back voting restrictions for past criminals, 11 still have on their books “felony disenfranchisement” laws barring roughly 5.8 million Americans from casting ballots, Holder said Tuesday at Georgetown.
Paul, who opposes his own state’s law, plans to testify before members of the Kentucky Legislature next week in favor of restoring voting rights for non-violent felons.
The legislation now in the works is similar to a bill introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and championed by a group of Senate Democrats. The lawmakers argue that the patchwork of disparate state laws results in uneven and unfair restrictions on who can vote in presidential elections and other federal contests. The similarly named Democracy Restoration Act, however, would apply to all felons who had completed their sentences.