Right to vote should not be denied
It often is said of people leaving prison that they have paid their debt to society - the sentence issued by the court.
Most often, however, the sentence itself is compounded by difficulties in finding jobs, housing and so on.
That additional debt should not include denial of basic citizenship rights, however. Attorney General Eric Holder was on the mark last week, in a speech at Georgetown University, in calling for states to lift their prohibitions against felons voting after their release from prison.
Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia ban all felons from voting for life, and many others have an array of obstacles that often prevent released prisoners from regaining the franchise.
That is an odd sort of punishment. The objective of incarceration is supposed to be not just punishment but rehabilitation. Governments should encourage civic engagement by released prisoners as a means to fight recidivism.
Pennsylvania's policy is better than those of many states but it could stand some improvement. Released felons are allowed to vote, but they must specifically reapply. Their eligibility should become automatic upon their release.
Mr. Holder has an ally in libertarian Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has endorsed Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steven L. Beshear's effort to restore voting rights for released felons.
Nationwide about 5.8 million released felons may not vote despite having served their time. That serves no valuable purpose while working against their prospects to successfully re-enter the society.