Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Urges Virginia Court to Uphold the Restoration of Voting Rights to Individuals With Criminal Histories

By | June 28, 2016

Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) and Bryan Cave LLP submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Virginia Supreme Court supporting Governor Terry McAuliffe’s order that restored the right to vote to over 200,000 individuals with former felony convictions.

“Virginia’s disenfranchisement law stands as one of the harshest in the nation, eliminating the voting power of more than 20 percent of the state’s African-American population,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is time to restore voting rights to people who have paid their debt to society to facilitate their successful reintegration back into our nation’s civic life. We urge the Court to uphold the actions taken by Virginia’s Governor to expand access to the franchise for all communities.”

The lawsuit, Howell v. McAuliffe, challenges the constitutionality of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s executive order to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. The governor’s order is estimated to restore the voting rights of over 200,000 formerly incarcerated individuals – a group comprised of African-Americans and other minorities who have been disproportionately brought into contact with the criminal justice system. It is estimated that more than 5,800 individuals have already registered to vote in the two months since the governor’s order.

“Governor McAuliffe’s Restoration of Rights Order was a proper exercise of his Virginia constitutional power,” said Rodney Page, partner at Bryan Cave LLP. “Additionally, the governor’s executive order is consistent with previous governors’ actions addressing the issue of re-entry and re-enfranchisement.”

In this case, the Lawyers’ Committee and Bryan Cave LLP are representing the interests of Bridging the Gap in Virginia, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in the re-entry process. Bridging the Gap in Virginia has dedicated significant resources to helping individuals register to vote as a result of Governor McAuliffe’s Restoration of Rights Order.

The Lawyers’ Committee and Bryan Cave LLP also represent David Green, a Virginian resident who has applied to register to vote as a result of the Restoration of Rights Order. At the age of 18, Green, a lifetime resident of Virginia and an African-American man, was convicted and completed his sentence almost 14 years ago. Green is active in his community and seeks to participate in the electoral process in Virginia.

“After being arrested at only 18 years old, I am proud to say that I have remained out of jail since 2002,” said Green. “Even though I completed my full sentence and have become a successful and responsible member of my community, I have never been able to cast a ballot. After trying to restore my right to vote for nearly a month, my voting rights were ultimately restored by Governor McAuliffe’s executive order on April 22. I look forward to exercising my right to vote in the upcoming presidential election.”

To read the full amicus brief, click here.