There are nearly six million American citizens, disproportionately minorities, who are prohibited from voting today. Bucking his Party’s trend, one key Republican senator wants to restore their voting rights.
In a dozen states, people who have committed a felony and gotten sent to prison don’t get their voting rights back after completing their sentence. One of those dozen is Kentucky, represented by stalwart conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Speaking at a local event in Louisville Monday, Paul argued that felons who have served their sentences should get their voting rights restored. He rightly noted that one of every three adult black men are convicted felons.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Paul said he will push to reform felon disenfranchisement laws both in Washington D.C. and Kentucky.
This reform is popular even in red states like Kentucky, where a poll this year found residents supporting the idea by a 51–38 margin, according to the Washington Post.
During his speech, the Kentucky senator also proposed reclassifying felonies like drug possession and non-payment of child support into misdemeanors, a move that would prevent huge swaths of people from having their voting rights threatened in the first place.
Paul has made a point of trying to broaden his Party’s appeal to minorities recently as he gears up for a possible 2016 presidential bid. However, his efforts have at times been patronizing and he still supports other voter suppression tactics like voter ID that disproportionately impact minority voters. As a candidate for the Senate, Paul came out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that allowing whites-only lunch counters to thrive is the “hard part about believing in freedom.”
Other states besides Kentucky where ex-felons can permanently lose their right to vote include Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming.