Skip Navigation

Holder’s Great Step Forward on Restoring Voting Rights

Nearly 6 million Americans are barred from voting because of a criminal conviction in their past. Attorney General Eric Holder’s call to restore voting rights to these citizens is a significant step forward for democracy.

February 11, 2014

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder urged states to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions and discussed the need to end mass incarceration.

“The attorney general’s announcement is a significant step forward for democracy,” said Democracy Program Deputy Director Myrna Pérez. “Nearly 6 million Americans are barred from voting because of a criminal conviction in their past. Three states permanently disenfranchise these citizens. America can do better. Citizens with criminal convictions who are living and working in our communities should have the responsibility and the right to participate in our democracy by voting. Congress should act quickly to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to those who have served their time.”

Holder’s announcement calls for restoring rights to those who have completed probation, parole, and paid all fines. Many states already go further than this and restore rights upon release from incarceration.

“We can and should go further than the attorney general’s recommendation and restore voting rights to all citizens who are not incarcerated,” added Pérez.

“With the largest prison population in the world and millions of Americans caught in a system of mass incarceration, ensuring that former offenders can fully regain their core rights as American citizens is a vital means of reducing recidivism by reintegrating them back into society,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Center’s Washington, D.C. office.

View the Brennan Center’s proposal to restore voting rights upon release from incarceration, and our state-by-state guide on criminal disenfranchisement laws. Read more on the Democracy Restoration Act.

Read the Brennan Center’s recent proposal to use executive action to reduce mass incarceration by applying Success-Oriented Funding to the criminal justice system.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact Erik Opsal at or 646–292–8356.