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Clean Slate is hiring full time staff!

ABOUT SCSJ AND THE CLEAN SLATE PROJECT

The Clean Slate Project was established in 2014 to address community requests for help with the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal justice system, including barriers to employment, housing, and occupational licenses. Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Employment Opportunity Legal Corps “EOLC” Fellows work within the Clean Slate Project to provide direct re-entry legal services and advocacy to economically disadvantaged individuals and people of color with criminal records that continue to impose collateral consequences long after their interaction with the criminal justice system. This is a one-year fellowship opportunity with a possible one-year extension contingent upon performance and continued AmeriCorps funding. SCSJ is a nonprofit organization based in Durham devoted to addressing systemic racism through multidisciplinary approaches, including impact litigation, criminal record legal services, policy advocacy, and research. Currently, SCSJ focuses on Criminal Justice (including its Clean Slate collateral consequences work) and Voting Rights (SCSJ litigates voting rights cases throughout the South).

RESPONSIBILTIES

 Pull and analyze criminal records; file petitions and represent clients in criminal district and superior court hearings statewide, predominantly in Central and Eastern NC.

 Attend three to four on-site Clean Slate Clinics per year throughout North Carolina.

 Collaborate daily with Clean Slate staff on caseload needs. Clean Slate staff includes four EOLC fellows, two staff attorneys, and one community organizer.

 Coordinate with local attorneys, court staff, and community leaders to promote Clean Slate Project work and goals.

 Develop innovative approaches to expand the law in ways that benefit clients.

 Perform other administrative tasks related to AmeriCorps and Equal Justice Works program compliance.

QUALIFICATIONS

 Must start by September 30, 2016, and attend the annual Equal Justice Works Leadership Development Training in Washington, DC, on October 25-27, 2016.

 Passion for providing the highest quality legal advice and representation to individual clients.

 Desire to be part of an energetic and collaborative team of people dedicated to criminal justice reform.

 Enthusiasm for setting and meeting goals and deadlines, independent problem solving, and high attention to detail.

 Ability to handle quickly changing plans with flexibility and grace.

 Ability to communicate effectively through various mediums, including formal letter, phone, email, and in-person; ability to communicate and work well with individuals with criminal records, community organizers and leaders, policy advocates, lawyers, judges, and court staff.

 Commitment to SCSJ’s community lawyering and racial justice model; experience in social justice/community-based lawyering, public interest law, or skills transferrable to this field.

 J.D. degree from an accredited law school; NC Bar membership in good standing by the start date. Page 2 of 2

COMPENSATION

Fellows are paid monthly by two means: a stipend of $25,060, plus up to $21,000 in supplemental benefits reimbursable only upon proof of receipt in specific living expense categories established by AmeriCorps, including housing, utilities, school loans, and if income eligible childcare assistance. Additionally, fellows can receive a $5,775 AmeriCorps Legal Education Award upon successful completion of service. SCSJ will provide health and dental insurance and other benefits normally afforded to permanent staff.

APPLICATION DEADLINE AND INSTRUCTIONS

Because the funder requires a start date of September 30, 2016, the application timeline is extremely tight.

The deadline to apply is Thursday, September 1, 2016, at 8 p.m.

Invitations for interviews will be sent on Friday, September 2, 2016. Interviews will be held on September 6 & 7, 2016. If you are unsure whether to apply because of availability on these dates, please submit your materials and indicate issues with availability in your email or cover letter.

Interested candidates should email a cover letter and resume to Bethan Eynon at bethaneynon@southerncoalition.org with the subject line: “Clean Slate Fellowship Application – [your full name].”

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Please also forward questions about this job description to Bethan. SCSJ is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, age, disability or veteran status. The EOLC Fellowship program is available to all, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, political affiliation, or religion.

SCSJ Clean Slate Fellowship Job Description PDF Link

(C) CommonDreams.org

Federal judges order NC to redraw racially gerrymandered legislative districts

 

DURHAM, N.C. — Voters and voting rights advocates won a major court victory today in North Carolina, where three federal judges unanimously found that 28 of the state’s legislative districts are racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn after the November 2016 election.

The three-judge court in the Middle District of North Carolina found that the North Carolina General Assembly unconstitutionally used race when it drew the districts following the 2010 U.S. Census, needlessly increasing the percentage of black voters in districts where black voters had been successfully electing their candidates of choice for years.

“After careful consideration of the evidence presented, we conclude that race was the predominant factor motivating the drawing of all challenged districts,” the court wrote in its opinion. “Moreover, Defendants have not shown that their use of race to draw any of these districts was narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest.” However, the three judges cautioned that today’s decision “should in no way be read to imply that majority-black districts are no longer needed in the state of North Carolina.”

As a result of North Carolina’s redistricting formula, “I was plucked out of my district and placed into another district simply because of my race,” said Sandra Covington, a retired elementary school teacher in Fayetteville and the lead plaintiff in the case. Covington, along with 30 other individuals from across the state who reside in the racially gerrymandered districts, filed the lawsuit challenging the districts. “Today’s decision is a clear message that North Carolina voters have a right not to be assigned to election districts based solely on the color of their skin,” she said.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 continues to be necessary “but should not be used to pack black voters or minimize their influence in the political process,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, who called the General Assembly’s race-based approach to redistricting after the 2010 Census “a recipe for permanent racial segregation.” The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, along with Poyner Spruill LLP and Adam Stein of the Tin Fulton law firm, represents the plaintiffs in the case.

Trial in the case took place April 11-15 in Greensboro before Circuit Judge James Wynn, District Judge Thomas Schroeder, and District Judge Catherine Eagles.

For the full opinion, click here.

Justice

Judge orders remedial actions in Wake County redistricting case

Raleigh, NC — This morning, August 9, a judge overseeing the Wake County redistricting case ordered a series of actions to resolve the unconstitutional redistricting for the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Wake County School Board.

The following is the list of actions to correct the situation, as ordered by the judge.

County Board of Commissioners:

  • March Primaries held in District A and B are void as these districts are unconstitutional.
  • Candidates from residency districts 4, 5, and 6 will run at large as previously scheduled.
  • Candidates elected will serve 2 year terms.
School Board:
  • Wake County Board of Elections must use 2011 districts.
  • All 9 single-member districts will be elected in November 2016 by plurality.
  • Candidates elected will serve 2 year terms.
  • There will be no run off elections.
  • These districts are only to be used for the 2016 elections.
The judge also stated his expectations that the General Assembly will create a system to resolve the unconstitutional districts upon reconvening in January 2017.
“This is a victory for basic fairness. It is not the American way to change the rules in the middle of the game because you are losing. That is what the General Assembly did when they passed these unconstitutional districts,” said Dr. Earl C. Johnson, plaintiff and former president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association.

For the link to the official order, click here.

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The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a legal nonprofit engaged in voting rights advocacy, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing and communications. The organization was founded in 2007 in Durham, North Carolina.

redistricting

Court will not reconsider unconstitutional election map ruling in Wake County

Durham, NC — On July 26, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc filed by the Wake County Board of Elections in litigation over the method of electing the School Board and County Commission. This decision means that the lower court must now implement the Fourth Circuit’s earlier ruling that the General Assembly’s redistricting plans for the Wake County Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners are unconstitutional and elections should not proceed in 2016 using those plans.

Earlier this month, the appeals court struck down two North Carolina laws that dramatically restructured those boards for partisan reasons. Reversing the district court, which upheld the General Assembly’s laws in February, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the plans unconstitutionally deviated from the “one person, one vote” guarantee in the federal and state constitutions. The Fourth Circuit entered immediate judgment for the plaintiffs, and stated that, “We see no reason why the November 2016 elections should proceed under the unconstitutional plans we strike down today.”

Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented plaintiffs in these actions, said of the ruling: “On behalf of my clients who have been steadfast in the long and hard fight to vindicate their rights, I am pleased that we are now in a position to return to the prior constitutionally-drawn districts system for both Boards.”

To view the court documents, click here.

Alberta Currie

Alberta Currie

Meet Alberta Currie, the lead plaintiff in SCSJ’s litigation challenging North Carolina’s strict Voter ID requirement.

Voting is a matter of pride for Alberta Currie. Since the age of 21 in 1956, she consistently has voted in every election. It was her grandmother who instilled in her the importance of never missing a voting day. But due to a voter ID provision in the state’s new Monster Voter Suppression Law, she may not be able to cast a ballot on Election Day in the coming years.

Currie, a 78-year-old native of Robeson County who now lives in Hope Mills, does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate. She doesn’t have a birth certificate because she was born at home to a midwife during the Jim Crow days of the segregated South.

On August 13, 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court – with Currie as the lead plaintiff – challenging the new voter ID requirement of the law. The suit was filed on behalf of the N.C. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and several individual voters, including Alberta Currie. The case will go to trial in late September of 2016.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice supports the rights of all voters – particularly those like  Alberta Currie and an estimated 318,000 other North Carolinians – who may completely lose the ability to vote due to changes in voting laws. SCSJ is currently engaged in voting rights litigation in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Litigating the current onslaught of repressive voting laws requires a team of experts, extensive travel, filing fees, and numerous other expenses in addition to regular operating costs. Your donation continues the fight for the voting rights of people like Alberta Currie. Please consider making a recurring donation to help sustain our voting rights litigation year-roundClick here to support SCSJ’s work!

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

YJP Cover Photo

First in Flight, Last in Youth Justice

by Austin Braxton

North Carolina is the only state that automatically processes every 16 and 17 year-old through its adult criminal justice system without an opportunity for the youth to appeal for a transfer to juvenile court.[1] In fact, juvenile court jurisdiction in 41 states and the District of Columbia extends to most persons under the age of 18.[2] The consequences of this policy outlier are harmful to North Carolina’s youth and place them at a severe disadvantage compared to their peers in other states.

Youth processed through the adult criminal justice system are more likely to be physically or sexually abused and more likely to commit suicide than youth adjudicated through the juvenile justice system.[3] Furthermore, studies have shown that youth are more likely to receive rehabilitation through the juvenile justice system and that recidivism rates are higher for youth transferred to the criminal justice system.[4] In addition, North Carolina youth face the harsh collateral consequences associated with criminal justice involvement at a much younger age, creating obstacles to obtaining gainful employment, financial aid for higher education, and even government housing—all because of adolescent mistakes. In these ways and more, North Carolina disadvantages its youth through its policy that is a departure from the national trend.

The results of North Carolina’s regressive youth justice policy clearly show that change is needed. A very small number of offenders may require the incapacitation that the criminal justice system provides, but there is no need to prosecute all youth as adults by default, especially since North Carolina already employs a robust transfer process to remove youth offenders of certain crimes to the criminal justice system.[5] North Carolina’s juvenile justice jurisdiction would have expanded if House Bill 399, the Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act, had been enacted last summer.[6] Instead, North Carolina’s youth languish as the bill lies with the House Committee on the Judiciary II.[7]

A primary concern of North Carolina lawmakers with expanding the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system is funding.[8] Quite simply, North Carolina’s juvenile justice system is already under-resourced, so an expansion of its jurisdiction represents an up-front cost to its taxpayers. Fortunately, morality is not the only incentive for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. In 2011, the Vera Institute compiled a report that provided a cost-benefit analysis of enacting this change in policy, finding that a net benefit of $52.3 million annually for raising the age.[9]

The caveat to this net benefit is that the offsetting benefits of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction do not directly return to the state. Although taxpayers would experience some savings as a result of shrinking the jurisdiction of the adult criminal justice system, the vast majority of the benefits are experienced by the youth that are spared an adult criminal conviction. These youth can expect to have higher salaries and contribute more to North Carolina’s economy long-term. Unfortunately, the short-term costs of raising the age has hindered legislation thus far. Though lack of funding is a legitimate concern for raising the age, an inspiring case study for the budgetary impact of this policy change can be found in the state of Connecticut.

Connecticut raised the age of juvenile justice jurisdiction gradually to allay a budget crisis and opposition from law enforcement.[10] Prior to 2010, Connecticut’s juvenile justice system was comparable to those in North Carolina and New York, but youth in Connecticut now experience among the highest levels of protection in the country.[11] Connecticut enacted its raise the age legislation anticipating an increase of $84 million in higher operating costs and $81 million in new construction costs,[12] which is roughly comparable to the estimates submitted by the Vera Institute for North Carolina. However, Connecticut never increased its spending on juvenile justice.[13] The large drop in total arrests for youth in this age bracket precipitated this unprecedented outcome and led to only marginal increases in population size in the state’s detention centers.[14] Furthermore, since the change in policy, Connecticut has experienced lower re-arrest rates for 16-year-olds than for youth 15 and younger,[15] demonstrating the effectiveness of keeping youth out of the adult criminal justice system.

North Carolina also has the opportunity to reap the rewards of juvenile justice reform. Like in Connecticut, arrests of youth in the 16 and 17 year-old age bracket have steadily declined since 2005 in North Carolina.[16] Specifically, total arrests in this age group declined by 36% from 2005 to 2014.[17] Therefore, the costs estimated by the Vera Institute report are likely overstated. North Carolina should seize this opportunity to emulate Connecticut’s success with juvenile justice reform and raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to protect their youth. In so doing, this state would follow the lead of 7 other states that have recently raised the age of jurisdiction for their juvenile justice systems: Connecticut,[18] Illinois,[19] Mississippi,[20]Massachusetts,[21] New Hampshire,[22] Utah,[23] and Nebraska.[24]

Currently, the Subcommittee on Juvenile Jurisdiction for the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice in North Carolina is drafting a report with recommendations for legislation on raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. The subcommittee recommends raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16 and 17 year-olds, with exceptions for youth accused of Class A-E felonies.[25] This recommendation is contingent, however, upon the receipt of funding to implement the change.[26] Stakeholders adamantly maintain that raising the age without full funding would be “detrimental” to North Carolina’s court system.[27] Furthermore, the Subcommittee reemphasized[28] the predicted net benefit of the Vera Institute’s analysis and itemized the spending necessary to expand juvenile court jurisdiction.[29] Hopefully, this work will lead to new legislation that will raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina, or at least a revitalization of House Bill 399. Although North Carolina stands alone in its outdated youth justice policies, some of its lawmakers continue the fight to keep youth out of the adult criminal justice system.

Austin Braxton is a rising 2L law student at UNC-Chapel Hill and a summer legal intern with the Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

**This blog post was originally posted on the Youth Justice Project website on June 9, 2016. The original post can be found here.**

[2] http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04101.asp.
[3] http://www.johnlocke.org/acrobat/spotlights/YoungOffenders.pdf.
[4] Id.
[5] http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/tryingjuvasadult/states/nc.html.
[6] http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/House/PDF/H399v1.pdf.
[7]http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2015&BillID=H399.
[8] http://nccalj.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Minutes-12.11.2015.pdf, page 6.
[9] http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/CBA-of-Raising-Age-Juvenile-Jurisdiction-NC-final.pdf, page 11.
[10]http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/jpi_juvenile_justice_reform_in_ct.pdf, page 16.
[11] Id.
[12] Id. at 15.
[13] http://www.raisetheagect.org/results-cost.html.
[14]http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/jpi_juvenile_justice_reform_in_ct.pdf, page 16.
[15] Id. at 17.
[16] http://crimereporting.ncsbi.gov/Reports.aspx.
[17] Id.
[18]http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/jpi_juvenile_justice_reform_in_ct.pdf, page 16.
[19] http://cfyj.org/news/blog/item/raise-the-age-bills-flourish-in-2016.
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/2014-juvenile-justice-state-legislation.aspx.
[23] http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/news/blog/item/2015-state-legislative-sessions-an-update-on-nationwide-juvenile-justice-reforms-to-protect-youth-from-the-adult-criminal-justice-system.
[24] http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/2014-juvenile-justice-state-legislation.aspx.
[25] http://nccalj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/May-2016-Juvenile-Committee-Meeting-POSTING.pdf, page 43.
[26] Id. at 49.
[27] Id.
[28] Id. at 37.
[29] http://nccalj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/IA1509-21_H399R0.pdf.
second chance

VA NAACP asks VA Supreme Court to uphold return of voting rights to people with prior felony convictions

Richmond, VA. —The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP filed a brief on Monday, June 27, 2016 in the Virginia Supreme Court in support of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 Virginians with previous felony convictions.

Gov. McAuliffe’s Order for the Restoration of Rights, issued April 22, 2016, represents a significant step toward ensuring that Virginians with felony convictions are able to not only re-enter and meaningfully participate in society, but also exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Currently, under Virginia law, people with felony convictions are automatically stripped of their political rights, and the governor alone has the power to restore those rights after completion of the individuals’ sentences. The Commonwealth’s extreme felony disenfranchisement provision is well outside the mainstream nationwide, and it exists and has persisted for explicitly racially discriminatory reasons dating to the 19th century.

Exercising his exclusive power under the Virginia Constitution, the governor ordered that a slew of critical civil rights—the rights to vote, hold political office, serve on a jury, and serve as a notary public—be immediately restored to the approximately 206,000 Virginians with previous felony convictions. In issuing his order, the governor noted that “Virginians have increasingly advanced the ideals of equality of all races and peoples, while rejecting the indefinite and unforgiving stigmatization of persons who have committed past criminal acts.”

In support of the Governor’s action, on Monday the Virginia NAACP submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Virginia Supreme Court in Howell v. McAuliffe, explaining why the Governor’s executive order was appropriate given the unbroken thread of racial discrimination woven into the Commonwealth’s constitution. Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell and others have petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the Governor’s action as an improper exercise of his constitutional power. The Virginia Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case on July 19 in Richmond.

Voting restrictions are but one example of the far-reaching negative consequences felony convictions can have on individuals’ lives—consequences that persist long after those individuals’ terms of incarceration and supervised release have concluded. In addition to being denied the right to participate in the political process, Virginians with felony convictions face heightened barriers to obtaining reliable housing, steady employment and other basic necessities, even after completing their sentences. These barriers disproportionately affect minority and low-income Virginians, and contribute to a cycle of recidivism that further stacks the deck against formerly incarcerated people seeking to re-enter and positively contribute to society.

“Felony disenfranchisement laws like the one in Virginia have no place in modern society, and the brief filed today outlines many of the reasons why that is the case,” said Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents the Virginia NAACP in this matter and provides legal assistance and re-entry services to communities across the South. “Any action taken to ameliorate the racially discriminatory effects of such laws should be applauded and upheld, not attacked.”

To access the amicus brief, click here.

 

 

 

redistricting

Redistricting of Wake County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education ruled unconstitutional

DURHAM, N.C.— On July 1, 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the General Assembly’s redistricting plans for the Wake County Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners are unconstitutional and elections should not proceed in 2016 using those plans.

The appeals court struck down two North Carolina laws that dramatically restructured the two boards. The Fourth Circuit found that the plans did not follow the “one person, one vote” guarantee in the federal and state constitutions.

Specifically, the appeals court held that the General Assembly had unevenly populated districts, giving more power to voters in districts that were underpopulated, and that they did so for illegitimate reasons—partisan gain. The Fourth Circuit stated that, “We see no reason why the November 2016 elections should proceed under the unconstitutional plans we strike down today.”

Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented plaintiffs in this action, said of the ruling: “This decision is an important recognition that redistricting is not a free-for-all. The Constitution provides safeguards to ensure that partisan gamesmanship does not interfere with the right an equal vote. Every voter’s vote should be weighted equally.”

Now it is up to the General Assembly to redraw the district lines. A session to resolve the matter was intended for the evening of Friday, July 1, but was rescheduled and is pending.

For the full PDF of the 4th Circuit Opinion, click here.

Solve Conference 2016

SOLVE Conference discusses strategy for voter rights

SOLVE (Southern Leadership for Voter Engagement) convened for their 3rd conference on June 17 and 18th in New Orleans. This year’s theme was Strong, Persistent, and Determined Action: SOLVE after Shelby, a reference to the Supreme Court Case, Shelby County v. Holder, which ultimately struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional.

Fred McBride of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice explains the title: “We chose as our theme: Strong, Persistent, and Determined Action, SOLVE After Shelby, because the convening was necessary to bring all of these southern voices together to not simply discuss what we already know, but hear from those impacted, develop a strategy, strengthen our SOLVE voting rights network, and aggressively combat these continuing struggles in exercising the right to vote.”

SOLVE is a multi-generational and multi-racial leadership group for increased civic participation in the South. In order to better collaborate and support one another, a convening was established to achieve the following:

  1. Bring together leaders from across the south to discuss the current landscape for fighting voter suppression efforts Connect with legal support and resources.
  2. Assess state-by-state capacity to address Voting Rights challenges and advocate for policies to enfranchise minority voters.
  3. Discuss opportunities for strategic coordination and develop a framework to implement them.
  4. Determine collective response to improve the Voting Rights Act Fix.

The two day conference started off with a welcome, followed by panels such as “Voting Rights in the South post Shelby”, moderated by Leroy Johnson of Southern Echo with panel members discussing proof of citizenship requirements, restoration of the Voting Rights Act, and state-by-state issues, including our very own Anita Earls speaking to the political gerrymandering and voter suppression in North Carolina.

SCSJ Executive Director Anita Earls speaking about North Carolina voting landscape

SCSJ Executive Director Anita Earls speaking about North Carolina’s voting landscape

Another panel moderated by SCSJ’s own Fred McBride discussed redistricting and gerrymandering throughout the South, including a panelist speaking to the prison gerrymandering and the “dilution of voting power.”

The first day ended with a practical look at the 2016 election season, the first presidential race in which the Voting Rights Act would not apply. A panel discussed the various manner of election protection and digital tools to counter the effects of the Shelby case.

The next day focused primarily on communications with a panel discussing best methods to discuss voter rights issues with the media. The conference transitioned into innovative approaches to the issues the American South faces such as youth engagement, intergenerational movement, identification alternatives, and automatic voter registration.

After a working lunch with respective states or regions, the conference wrapped up with state reports, best approaches and ways to look forward in a post-Shelby election world.

For more information on the conference and participating organizations, visit http://www.solve.network/

Solve Conference 2016

Solve Conference 2016

image

ACLU and SCSJ Condemn Ruling in North Carolina Voting Lawsuit

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. —The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice condemned today’s federal court ruling upholding provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive voting law. The groups are analyzing the court’s decision and considering next steps.

The groups are challenging provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit the counting of out-of-precinct ballots. Thousands of North Carolinians, disproportionately African-Americans, have relied on those provisions to cast their votes in past elections.

“The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans. This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of several plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, North Carolina Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, and several individuals.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals previously ordered North Carolina to restore same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting for the 2014 elections as the case made its way through the courts; that ruling was ultimately reversed, however, and the provisions remained in effect.

“Today’s ruling is inconsistent with the Fourth Circuit’s decision in 2014, and we’re confident that the voters in this state will eventually be vindicated,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney Allison Riggs.

At federal trial in July 2015, dozens of witnesses spoke of how the law has severely restricted ballot access for the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including low-income voters, those with transportation challenges, and particularly African-American voters. In the 2012 election, 900,000 North Carolinians cast their ballots during the seven days of early voting eliminated by the North Carolina General Assembly – 70 percent of those who voted early were African-American.

The ACLU and Southern Coalition for Social Justice charge the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act.

 

Read the ruling here