Acknowledging racial disparities in U.S. drug and sentencing laws, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is calling for the restoration of felon voting rights in state and federal laws.
The Tea Party favorite also says the consequence of those punitive measures is the chief culprit behind voter disenfranchisement in African-American communities.
"The biggest impediment to voting rights, right now, are convicted felons. One in three young black males has been convicted of a felony and they’ve lost their voting rights. I think it dwarfs all other (election-related) issues," says Paul.
Paul made the comments at a forum hosted by the Plymouth Community Renewal Center in west Louisville on Monday. It is part of the libertarian-leaning senator's continued effort to close the gap between Republicans and black voters, which began with a speech at Howard University this spring.
Among the measures Paul's office touted to those in attendance was co-sponsoring a bill with Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to give judges more discretion in sentencing federal drug cases.
Speaking to a handful of community activists and residents, Paul outlined how he also hopes to put forward a measure that would restore a felon's voting rights at the federal level five years after their release.
"We haven't decided which crimes yet, but I think particularly for non-violent drug crimes where people made a youthful mistake I think they ought to get their rights back," he says.