A Key US Republican senator has started a campaign to reform felon disenfranchisement laws both in Washington D.C. and Kentucky.
Speaking at a local event in Louisville Monday, stalwart conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued that felons who have served their sentences should get their voting rights restored.
Paul noted that one of every three adult African-American men are convicted felons.
His push to reform the laws could eventually affect nearly six million American citizens, disproportionately minorities, who are prohibited from voting.
People living in a dozen states, including Washington D.C. and Kentucky, who have committed a felony and gotten sent to prison don’t get their voting rights back after completing their sentence.
Paul’s reform appears to be popular in Kentucky. A poll this year found state residents supporting the idea by a 51-38 margin, according to The Washington Post.
Paul 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.
The Kentucky senator is said to be preparing for a possible 2016 presidential bid.
Observers say his recent decision is an effort to broaden his party’s appeal to minorities.
Paul opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he run for the Senate, claiming that allowing whites-only lunch counters to thrive is the “hard part about believing in freedom.”
Ex-felons in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming can also permanently lose their right to vote.