LaKecia Farmer, Legislative Coordinator for Civil Survival, attended the Brennan Center for Justice’s “Road to Re-Enfranchisement: Advancing Rights Restoration” in New York City on September 11, 2019. They were joined by many folks from Washington State including Senator Kuderer and representatives from ACLU WA, University of Washington, and Pioneer Square Human Services.

The Road to Re-Enfranchisement featured speakers and attendees from all across the country such as “impacted individuals, lawmakers, advocates, scholars, election officials, and leaders from law enforcement and faith communities” (Brennan Center program). Attendees were able to engage with panels and speakers, but also participated in break-out sessions.

The symposium centered on one concept: preserving and expanding the right to vote for people with past and/or current convictions disenfranchised by various state laws. Although this was a unifying theme shared by individuals and organizations throughout the symposium, there were similarities and differences on the approach of how to reach this goal.

Some worked on enfranchisement for formerly incarcerated individuals who served their time, and after a length of time, were able to receive their right to vote such as with Nevada. Others focused on individuals immediately released, but only with certain convictions (known as carve outs) as with recent events in Florida. Finally, some approached it through full enfranchisement for all eligible individuals including those incarcerated with Vermont and Maine as examples.

All in all, it was a grounding conference for Washington State attendees, including Civil Survival, to pursue meaningful advocacy for voting restoration in the next legislative session and beyond.