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Cardin, Paul Unite for Discussion of How Best to Restore Voting Rights for Millions of Americans

At a Capitol Hill briefing today, U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined an expert panel of witnesses to discuss solutions to end the disenfranchisement of individuals with past criminal convictions.

July 22, 2014

U.S. Senat­ors Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today hosted a brief­ing on solu­tions to end the disen­fran­chise­ment of indi­vidu­als with past crim­inal convic­tions. The Senat­ors were joined by an expert panel of witnesses who spoke of the national and local import­ance of restor­ing voting rights to millions of Amer­ic­ans who are currently out of prison but not fully able to claim a stake in their community due to a weak patch work of state laws.

“Voting is neither a Repub­lican nor a Demo­cratic issue, it is an Amer­ican issue,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and coun­sel of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., office of the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Restor­ing voting rights to people with past crim­inal convic­tions will expand our demo­cracy, increase public safety, and stream­line our nation’s elec­tion system. Senator Cardin and Senator Paul’s lead­er­ship can help change the national conver­sa­tion on this issue. We urge Congress to move swiftly to restore voting rights to millions of Amer­ic­ans.”

“Senator Paul and I don’t agree on many issues, but we are united in our belief that Amer­ica cannot justify disen­fran­chising such a large portion of our popu­la­tion. When pris­on­ers are released, part of rein­teg­rat­ing them back into the community is allow­ing them the funda­mental right to vote,” said Senator Cardin. “The patch­work of stand­ards for voting in Federal elec­tions leads to an unfair dispar­ity and unequal parti­cip­a­tion that dispro­por­tion­ately impacts racial and ethnic minor­it­ies. My bill would allow the roughly 4 million Amer­ic­ans who have served their time the oppor­tun­ity to be welcomed back into our demo­cracy as a voting citizen.”

“Our crim­inal justice system is broken. I recently intro­duced the Civil Rights Voting Restor­a­tion Act, a bill that would restore Federal voting rights for non-viol­ent crim­in­als. Addi­tion­ally, I am work­ing on legis­la­tion to reform federal drug laws to reduce the incar­cer­a­tion rate for non-viol­ent offend­ers. I look forward to continu­ing to work with Senator Ben Cardin on this issue and towards find­ing a solu­tion to restore voting rights in this coun­try,” Senator Paul said.   

“Today’s brief­ing made clear that federal legis­la­tion is needed to restore voting rights for all return­ing citizens. By continu­ing to deny citizens the right to vote based on a past crim­inal convic­tion, the govern­ment is endors­ing a system that expects our citizens to contrib­ute to the community, but denies them parti­cip­a­tion on our demo­cracy. The ACLU applauds Senat­ors Cardin and Paul for their crit­ical work on voter restor­a­tion reforms and for enga­ging in this import­ant bipar­tisan dialogue,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Senior Legis­lat­ive Coun­sel.

The panel was co-sponsored by the Bren­nan Center for Justice and the ACLU. Watch the video here.