Yesterday, VOTE members headed to LSU's School of Law bright and early to have our voices heard at the oral arguments for our lawsuit, VOTE v. Louisiana. Members from all corners of the state--from New Orleans to Lafayette to Shreveport--came out to share their stories. At the press conference before the hearing, several speakers took the mic to share different perspectives on why voting rights matter. Among them were VOTE member and lawsuit plaintiff Randy Tucker, who spoke about the role of God and religion in this fight; Loyola University College of Law Professor Andrea Armstrong, who helped author the constitutional scholars' brief; Felicia Smith, a Shreveport VOTE member and new part-time staff member, who shared her story of incarceration; and Professor Davida Finger, who read from the APPA brief endorsing VOTE's position in this case.
Following the press conference, our partners at Advancement Project led a teach-in about the history behind the lawsuit and what to expect from the case moving forward. Members were also briefed on how oral arguments typically work and how they can engage.
When our case was heard, Professor Bill Quigley answered questions from the judges about what it means to be on probation or parole and more. While tensions were high in the court room, VOTE is confident that this was a positive step for our case, and that, ultimately, we will win.
Watch the Facebook live recording of the press conference here!
Watch Executive Director Norris Henderson's closing remarks following the hearing here.
Yesterday's action was one of many coming up, and we need you to come out and help us win the movement to end mass incarceration! Sign up to join us at our events in March!
VOTE members came out in droves at the Felony Classification Task Force meetings. The result? They officially recommended that the Legislature create a felony class system that will categorize existing crimes and provide sentencing guidelines for judges to follow! We have many more events like this coming up. Join us!
It’s the most joyous time of the year at the VOTE office, not only because of Mardi Gras but because we’re gaining serious momentum in local and state criminal justice reform.
Last week, the Louisiana Felony Classification Task Force officially recommended that the Legislature create a felony class system to categorize existing crimes and provide corresponding sentencing guidelines for judges to follow. Members of the Task Force made their decision in response to a plethora of powerful testimonies from formerly incarcerated people, their loved ones and allies. The full report includes four specific recommendations, which include:
While we still have work to do in order to get the recommended legislation authored and passed, this victory is a major step in the right direction for our members and those most impacted by the system. If you want to be part of next steps, sign up to join us at future actions.
Our lawsuit--VOTE v. Louisiana--is also swiftly moving forward. On February 27, the judges will hear oral arguments from both sides, and we are aiming for a big turnout of supporters on that day. The hearing will be held at the LSU Law School. Join us.
“The court needs to feel the gravity of this case, and the importance of voting rights as the cornerstone of a free democracy,” says Bruce Reilly, Deputy Director. “The best way to do that is showing the collective will of the people.”
If we win this case, over 70,000 Louisianans under community supervision will be able to vote again. We will send a strong message throughout the state and nation that outdated laws based on institutional racism are unacceptable.
“The remnants of slavery need to go,” says Reilly. “This law impacts all people, Black and white, by watering down our democracy and telling those of us that are formerly incarcerated that we are unwelcome and unwanted. Our case is as part of a long legacy of historic civil rights struggles. The time to end 150-year-old second-class citizenship is now.”
We need the judges to see that this is a movement fueled by people power. Our goal is to have more than 100 people show up on the 27th. RSVP now.
Can’t make it that day? As the 2018 Legislative session approaches, we will have many opportunities to attend events that will push to restore the rights of formerly incarcerated people. On March 2, we will head to Southern University for a statewide summit on upcoming legislative activities, and on March 27 we will replicate last year’s lively Lobby Day at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Sign up to be at some or all of these events.