WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder called Tuesday for the repeal of laws that prohibit millions of felons from voting.
In a speech at Georgetown University, Holder described today's prohibitions as a vestige of the racist policies of the South after the Civil War, when states used the criminal justice system to keep blacks from fully participating in society.
"Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives," Holder said. "They could not vote."
Holder has no authority to enact the changes he called for, given that states establish the rules under which people can vote. And state Republican leaders made clear that Holder's remarks, made to a receptive audience at a civil rights conference, would not move them.
"Eric Holder's speech from Washington, D.C., has no effect on Florida's Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote," said Frank Collins, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott.