Civil Rights Group Demands Action by State of Louisiana to Remedy Violations of Federal Voting Rights Law - Advancement Project - Advancement Project

Civil Rights Group Demands Action by State of Louisiana to Remedy Violations of Federal Voting Rights Law

VOTE prepared to take legal action unless State stops violating the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people ahead of #FreeTheVote, a National Day of Action celebrating the voting rights of re-enfranchised citizens

Ryley Rubin, [email protected]
Alex Jordan, [email protected]
Rebecca Carr, [email protected]

New Orleans – Today, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), a Louisiana-based grassroots organization founded and run by formerly incarcerated people, issued a demand letter to Louisiana Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin and Commissioner of Elections Sherri Wharton Hadsky for violations of the National Voter Registration Act. The group is prepared to take legal action unless the State removes administrative barriers blocking formerly incarcerated Louisianans from registering to vote.

The demand letter comes on the heels of the historic passage of Act 636 in 2018, legislation spearheaded by VOTE to provide an avenue for more than 40,000 disenfranchised people with felony convictions to have their voting rights restored. Two years after the law’s implementation, people newly eligible to vote under Act 636—as well as people who were already eligible under existing law—continue to face barriers to voter registration. These barriers include disenfranchising everyone sentenced to probation, and then requiring them to provide paperwork, in person, proving they are not incarcerated. Additionally, people whose probation or prison sentences expired decades ago are being required to provide in-person documentation proving that they are no longer incarcerated.

“This country is built upon our rights, and the ability to exercise those rights,” said Norris Henderson, Founder and Executive Director of VOTE. “This is why we are holding events across the country on Saturday, from Louisiana to California, Florida to New York, and many parts in between; we need to both celebrate our right to vote while bringing attention to those who are taking away our inalienable right as Americans. In 2020, we are all about going from chains to change, and we are here to unlock the vote.”

The letter is being sent ahead of Free the Vote! Formerly Incarcerated People Vote Day, a national day of action on Saturday, October 24 to celebrate the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people and voters with convictions. Louisianans in five locations will vote in solidarity with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and other members of Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement. National data recently released by the Sentencing Project indicates that 5.2 million Americans—one out of every 44 adults in this country—are unable to vote due to a current or previous felony conviction. One in 16 Black Americans of voting age are unable to vote due to felony disenfranchisement policies, a rate 3.7 times greater than non-Black Americans.

“Voting is important to me, not just as a citizen, but as a father and as a business owner and community leader. I have a right to vote, a right to shape the future of my neighborhood—but for months, the state stood in the way of my voter registration,” said Mack Terrance, a formerly incarcerated New Orleanian who is eligible to vote but encountered significant burdens in his attempts to register; he finally was able to finish registering this week. “This should not have been so difficult.  know that a lot of folks like me won’t have the time or the chance to jump through all these hoops and finish their registration. My community should not be denied the chance to weigh in on the politicians and policies that impact us.”

Louisianans are being inappropriately removed from the voting rolls and unlawfully required to provide documentation to register. State officials are also imposing unnecessary and onerous requirements on formerly incarcerated people attempting to register to vote, including requiring in-person appearances at a Registrar of Voters offices and Parole and Probation offices to obtain paperwork and data already in the possession of the Secretary of State and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. These requirements violate the NVRA, pose an undue burden on affected individuals, and create unnecessary risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The demand letter was sent on VOTE’s behalf by Professor Bill Quigley of Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law, Advancement Project National Office, and Crowell & Moring LLP.

“Act 636 was long overdue victory for Louisianans’ voting rights. VOTE’s ability to win this progress in the state that invented the ‘Grandfather Clause’ is a testament to their ability to organize and build the power of formerly incarcerated Louisianans,” said Professor Bill Quigley of Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law. “Under 636, people on parole with felony records have the right to vote as long as they have been out for five years. This new law, combined with existing law, also gave many people on probation the right to vote. However, the State is failing to uphold formerly incarcerated peoples’ fundamental voting rights; we will not stop fighting the forces that seek to suppress people’s voices.”

“Louisiana is failing to uphold the voting rights of its citizens. Whether this is a product of bad intention or mere administrative mistake, the effect is the same—Louisianans who are fully eligible to vote are being disenfranchised” said Gilda Daniels, Director of Litigation for Advancement Project National Office. “In 2018, VOTE dragged Louisiana out of its Jim Crow past by leading the movement to pass Act 636, restoring voting rights to people on parole and most people on probation. This was an important step in the fight for voting rights in Louisiana—but the State’s disorganized and uneven implementation of the law and continued barriers to voter registration for all people with felony convictions threaten to upend the progress that VOTE and Louisiana organizers have won. The State must act swiftly to repair this harm.”

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and that right is being denied to thousands of eligible voters in Louisiana,” said Mike Lieberman, partner at Crowell & Moring, LLP, a law firm representing VOTE.  “This is a fixable problem.  The State should take action today to ensure that voters with felony convictions are not stripped of the right to vote when they are clearly eligible under the law, and to remove unnecessary and onerous administrative hurdles that are preventing eligible voters with felony convictions from having their voting rights restored.  All eligible voters deserve the right to be registered, and to have their vote counted.”


VOTE is a grassroots organization founded and run by formerly incarcerated people (FIP), our families and our allies. We are dedicated to restoring the full human and civil rights of those most impacted by the criminal (in)justice system. Together we have the experiences, expertise and power to improve public safety in Louisiana and beyond without relying on mass incarceration.

Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit

Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with approximately 550 lawyers representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory, and transactional matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes litigation, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro bono service and diversity. The firm has offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, London, Brussels, and Shanghai.


Advancement Project Reacts to Supreme Court Victory for Voters in Moore vs Harper

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to today’s Supreme Court decision on the Moore vs Harper case, Advancement Project executive director Judith Browne Dianis issued this statement: “Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for voters. We only narrowly escaped a world where the Supreme Court would have handed state legislators with the full blown power to manipulate elections and run rogue, taking away our power as voters and undermining democracy. However, this does not detract from what we already know to be true: that despite this win, access to the ballot for Black, Latinx, Indigenous…

Read More
White Paper Released as Louisiana Legislature Hears HB 396 to Streamline Voter Registration Process for People with Felony Convictions this Wednesday

New Orleans, LA – Today, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), Advancement Project, and political scientist Dr. Ariel White released a new white paper titled “No Surrender, No Retreat! Removing Barriers to the Ballot Box for Formerly Incarcerated People in Louisiana.” The white paper unveils the 64-parish survey of the registrars of voters, while also highlighting the historical challenges faced by Louisiana voters with felony convictions when trying to register to vote.   Shockingly, only 23 out of 46 parishes, or 50%, correctly stated that…

Read More
Plaintiffs Challenging Florida’s SB 90 React to 11th Circuit Reversal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision and allowed Florida to continue to force communities of color to navigate unnecessary obstacles in order to vote.  This decision undercuts the thorough analysis of the district court which rightfully found that Florida’s SB 90 was adopted with the intent to discriminate against Black voters in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well as section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, the 11th Circuit reversed the decision by the lower court…

Read More
Advancement Project Releases Poll and Focus Group Data on Gen Z Voters of Color Spanning Four States

Advancement Project Releases Poll and Focus Group Data on Gen Z Voters of Color in Michigan, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia Issues that rose to the top include abortion access, the economy, and systemic racism and discrimination WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Advancement Project released findings from a poll and focus groups of Gen Z voters of color (Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American and Pacific Islander) in Michigan, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. This survey was conducted by HIT Strategies in September 2022.  “We know that when our…

Read More
BREAKING: Court Denies Motion from Civil Rights Groups Challenging Georgia’s Voting Line Relief Ban

GEORGIA – The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to suspend the line relief ban in Senate Bill 202. Line relief is the practice of distributing food, water and other support to voters stuck waiting in line at a polling place. The plaintiffs include local Black faith leaders and Georgia civil rights groups. In response, Jess Unger, Staff Attorney for the Power and Democracy program at Advancement Project National Office, released this statement: “The criminalization of people providing food and water to voters who are waiting to cast their…

Read More
Hearing in Lawsuit Challenging Georgia Anti-Voting Rights Law Weighs Impact of Line Relief Restrictions

GEORGIA —  The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia will be hearing motions for a preliminary injunction in the consolidated litigation challenging SB 202 (In Re Georgia Senate Bill 202). This hearing will consider the “line relief” provision that criminalizes those who provide voters waiting in line with food and water, which disproportionately impacts communities of color in Georgia who face some of the longest waiting times at the ballot box in the country.  SB 202 creates significant barriers for Black, Latinx and other voters of color…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Condemns New Anti-Voting Rights Law in Florida that Creates Office of Election Crimes, Mandates Special Voter-Fraud Police Officers

FLORIDA – Moments ago, Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill passed by the Republican Florida legislature that claims to fight “voter fraud” by creating an Office of Election Crimes and mandating the appointment of “special” members of law enforcement.  This comes on the heels of the conclusion of a trial challenging SB 90, another anti-voting rights measure in Florida. This law was successfully challenged in court by several national and Florida civil rights and voting rights groups, including Advancement Project. Similar anti-voting rights bills…

Read More
Civil Rights Organizations Celebrate Decision in Florida Voting Rights Trial

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker released a landmark decision today in the nationally-watched voting rights trial on Florida’s SB 90 bill to strike down key provisions of the law. This restrictive voting law passed by the Republican-majority legislature and Gov. DeSantis  would have put in place new constraints on the use of drop boxes and organizations conducting voter registration drives, among other measures that would significantly hinder access to the vote for millions of state residents.

Read More
Trial Challenging Florida’s SB 90 Voter Suppression Law Begins Today

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —  A trial challenging SB 90 (League of Women Voters v Lee), a Florida measure to make it harder and in many ways impossible for Black and Brown people to vote, kicked off on Monday, Jan. 31. This is one of the first trials of the year challenging anti-voting laws at the state level. It comes just as national voting rights efforts have stalled, with the Senate recently failing to change rules on the filibuster to pass voting rights.  SB 90 was passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis in spring…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Statement on the Senate’s Failure to Pass Voting Rights Legislation

WASHINGTON — Last night, the Senate blocked the Freedom to Vote John R. Lewis Act from advancing to a final passage vote. In response to this, Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project National Office released this statement: “Last night, all 50 Senate Republicans and two Senate Democrats voted to maintain the filibuster and block the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act from advancing to a final vote. These bills would protect voters and undo many of the barriers and restrictions that bar thousands of Black, Latinx, Asian, and…

Read More