Victory! Rights-restoration bill passes Louisiana State Senate

May 16, 2018

They did it! Today, against all odds, our partner group in Louisiana, Voice of the Experienced, got their rights-restoration bill passed in the Louisiana State Senate. Now, after a brief reconciliation process, it is expected to go to the governor’s desk for a signature.

All along, this seemed like an unlikely, uphill battle. Passing it out of the House of Representatives took three different votes this session — and the bill failed in  years past. But this is part of the vision and resilience of the formerly incarcerated leaders at the helm of VOTE, who started envisioning what it would be like to organize and build power while they were confined in prison.

As VOTE says, “No surrender, no retreat!”

Checo Yancy, middle, after passage of HB 265, a bill he helped champion.

HB 265 is a key part of VOTE’s fight for rights restoration. The bill would:

  • Reduce the time people on probation and parole for conviction of a felony would have their voting rights suspended.
  • Allow people with felony convictions to vote if they have not been incarcerated within the last five years. (Currently, people with felony convictions cannot vote while they are on probation and parole.)
    • The bill would restore voting rights to people on probation who have not violated its terms and those on parole who have not been incarcerated for the past five years.

After passage in the senate, VOTE released this statement on behalf of Checo Yancy, an organizational leader who is formerly incarcerated and helped lead the fight for HB 265:

“So much of the criminal justice system exists to deprive us of our humanity. This bill restores a little of that humanity. The path to this victory has been long and hard, but we are proud of our members and everyone who showed up in support. This moment is decades in the making, but it has been well worth the fight. Ultimately this is about our voice, our citizenship, and what that means to ourselves and our families.”

Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s national office, said:

“People should be given second chances, maintain their political voice and have the opportunity to choose those who represents them. At a time when there is momentum in favor of criminal justice reform, VOTE’s success shows that this work can and should be done under the leadership of directly-impacted people. Envisioned while its founders were still behind bars in the heart of the world’s incarceration capital, VOTE has led the way to historic grassroots-led reforms. At Advancement Project we are proud to support VOTE, from the streets to the legislature to the courts.”

Read the full statement here.

Stay up to date with Advancement Project’s broader body of work fighting alongside VOTE for the right to vote.  Follow updates on our lawsuit, VOTE v. Louisiana and our work in the state.