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Louisiana Supreme Court Denies Case Seeking Right to Vote for Parolees and Probationers

New Orleans, LA – This week, over a powerful dissent by Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, a majority of the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a writ application for review in VOTE v. Louisiana, a case challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s ability to disenfranchise probationers and parolees. With yesterday’s denial, lead plaintiff Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), a grassroots organization founded and led by formerly incarcerated people in Louisiana, now pivots to implementing Act 636, a measure VOTE fought for and won last May that restores the right to vote for some parolees and all probationers in the state.

“We are disappointed with this result, but invigorated by Chief Justice Johnson’s wise dissent and our work ahead in ensuring that over 40,000 citizens in Louisiana rejoin our democracy on March 1, 2019, the effective date of Act 636,” said Norris Henderson, Executive Director of VOTE.

“After March 1, 2019, under Act 636, every citizen in Louisiana, over the age of 18 can vote, including people who have been convicted of crimes, unless they fall into three scenarios: One, they are in prison for a felony conviction. Two, they have been on parole for less than five years. Or three, they have served prison time on their probation sentence, have been released back to their probation status, and have been on probation for five years since.” Norris Henderson explained. “And every citizen who has completed their sentence has the right to vote .The right to vote is a fundamental right in Louisiana.

“Like Chief Justice Johnson wrote in her dissent, Act 636 does not go far enough. But it is a step in the right direction. We will struggle on for the day that all people who are not in prison have the right to vote, which is what our Louisiana Constitution guarantees,” said Checo Yancy, Director of VOTE’s Baton Rouge Office.

“Dissents are important. Chief Justice Johnson has shown us the way forward. We have a movement led by VOTE and its allies that will make the change. It happens slower than we want, but we are honored to be part of this struggle,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project’s national office, which serves as lead national counsel on VOTE v. Louisiana. “This case was envisioned by the founders of VOTE while they were serving long sentences behind bars. That they have taken their fight for justice from the heart of one of the nation’s biggest incarcerators to the state’s Supreme Court is a testament to the grit and will of Voice of the Experienced. If we are to reinvent and reignite democracy, it will be done by following models like VOTE.”

See VOTE’s writ application to the Louisiana Supreme Court in VOTE v Louisiana.

See VOTE’s statement on VOTE v. Louisiana: A Grassroots Lawsuit that Lost, Yet Won Voting Rights for 40,000

See Chief Justice Johnson’s dissent

Read our blog about this on www.nationalrighttovote.org.

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 New Orleans and beyond without relying on mass incarceration. ​Through civic engagement and policy reform, we increasingly mobilize a strong group of leaders to transform the movement for the elimination of the carceral state.

Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high-quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.

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