De-Facto Disenfranchisement: Ensuring the Freedom to Vote in Jail

Resources for 'De-Facto Disenfranchisement: Ensuring the Freedom to Vote in Jail,' a webinar taking place on Thursday, October 28th from 4-5:30pm ET.

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Though many individuals incarcerated in local jails retain the right to vote, they often cannot exercise it in practice. This de-facto disenfranchisement is caused by a wide range of barriers including difficulty registering to vote, challenges with casting a ballot, and misinformation pertaining to eligibility.

On Thursday, October 28th from 4-5:30pm ET/1-2:30pm PT, NACDL will host De-Facto Disenfranchisement: Ensuring the Freedom to Vote in Jail, a webinar that will delve into the causes of jail-based disenfranchisement and highlight strategies that advocates and elected officials can employ to ensure that eligible voters who are being detained are not denied their right to vote.

This discussion will be moderated by Blair Bowie, Legal Counsel and Restore Your Vote Manager at the Campaign Legal Center, and will feature Naila Awan, Director of Advocacy for the Prison Policy Initiative; Tatyana Hopkins, student at the UDC Law Youth Justice Clinic; and BeKura W. Shabazz, President of the Criminal Injustice Reform Network

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Naila AwanNaila Awan serves as the Director of Advocacy at Prison Policy Initiative. Naila is a civil and human rights lawyer with years of experience collaborating with, supporting, and representing Black- and Brown-led grassroots organizations in policy reform and litigation efforts. Prior to joining Prison Policy Initiative, Naila worked for multiple civil rights organizations and served on the legislative staff for Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.

Most recently, Naila served as Senior Counsel at DÄ“mos, where her work centered on combating voter suppression and expanding access to the ballot for traditionally marginalized communities. In this role, she led a cross-functional project to end the disenfranchisement people experience when then come into contact with the criminal legal system, testified before Congress, and served as counsel in A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Husted, a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Ohio’s voter purge practices, and Mays v. LaRose, a class action seeking to expand access to the ballot for voters detained in jail. She also co-authored Enfranchisement for All: The Case for Ending Penal Disenfranchisement in Our Democracy and How to End De Facto Disenfranchisement in the Criminal Justice System.

Naila holds a L.L.M in International Legal Studies from the New York University School of Law, a J.D from the Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, and a B.A from Miami University of Ohio.

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Blair BowieBlair Bowie is Restore Your Vote Manager and Legal Counsel at Campaign Legal Center. She focuses on dismantling felony disenfranchisement laws and financial barriers to restoring voting rights through direct services and impact litigation.

As a Skadden Fellow, Blair founded CLC's Restore Your Vote program, which works with grassroots groups across the country to close the gap in access to accurate information and individual assistance to restore voting rights after a felony conviction. Restore Your Vote's online tools for voting rights restoration have been used by more than 320,000 Americans. The program has provided individual assistance to more than 12,000 people and is building sustainable rights restoration infrastructure with 12 organizations across the country. Through direct services, Blair has identified and dismantled dozens of systemic barriers for justice-involved voters using administrative advocacy and litigation.

Blair received her J.D. cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she was a Toll Public Interest Scholar and granted the Dean Jefferson B. Fordham Human Rights Award, for the student who has made the most outstanding contribution to the advancement of individual freedom and human dignity. At Penn Law, she founded the Democracy Law Project, served as the philanthropy chair for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and published an essay on money in politics entitled “Laying the Foundation for a New Jurisprudence in State Courts” in the Election Law Journal. Prior to law school, Blair worked as the Democracy Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and as a grassroots environmental organizer for Green Corps.

Tatyana HopkinsTatyana Hopkins is a fourth-year evening law student at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law. Currently, she is a student within the UDC Law Youth Justice Clinic, which engages in public interest work and public education related to system-impacted youths and adults. As part of the clinic, Tatyana has helped lead efforts to gather information about voting procedures in Georgia jails for incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote as well as develop a guide for Virginia defense attorneys protect their clients right to vote. For the past two years, Tatyana has also served as the Notes editor of the UDC Law Review, a student-run periodical that aims to publish articles addressing legal issues of social concern and as well as embodying the theme of community activism and service.

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Tatyana graduated from Howard University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in print/online journalism. In 2016, she was selected for a fellowship through the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) in their “Discover the Unexpected” program, where she interned with Michigan Chronicle in Detroit for the summer. During her internship, she covered the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. She began in journalism as a student reporter for the Howard University News Service, for which she covered the Flint, Michigan, water crisis before moving onto the Washington Informer, where she covered D.C. government and politics. While there, she also spent a week in Puerto Rico as a foreign correspondent covering the recovery efforts Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017.

BeKura ShabazzBeKura W. Shabazz has over 2 decades of grassroots advocacy and activism in the areas of criminal injustice, environmental injustice, child welfare injustice, housing and economic injustice and policy reform. She previously served as State lead for federal legislation on climate change and sea level rise with the Virginia Conservation Network. Since leaving that role she has also been vigorously fighting against and providing solutions to eradicate systemic oppression and racist nonprofit culture. She is currently the Social Justice and Health Disparities committee chairwoman for the Va. Green New Deal, Former Vice President of the Coalition for Justice for Civil Rights, Former President of the Newport News Chapter of the Coalition for Justice for Civil Rights, Former Chesterfield NAACP Criminal Justice committee chair, current Petersburg NAACP Criminal Justice Chairwoman, Internal Policy Committee Chair of the Va Environmental Justice Collaborative and Board Member, an Advisory Board member of the Virginia Human Rights Network, Board member for the Citizens Advisory Council for the Chesapeake Bay Program and is a  proud graduate of the first cohort of the Virginia EJ Academy. Ms. Shabazz just recently expanded her advocacy to Maryland, the District of Columbia and Tennessee. Ms. Shabazz is the Founder and President of First Alliance Consulting LLC, The Criminal Injustice Reform Network, Mothers Against Mandatory Minimums and The Coalition for Families Against Child Separation. She is a certified mediator, conflict resolution specialist and a legal advocate for underrepresented community members navigating the criminal and civil injustice system.