Georgetown Law has established a Voting Rights Institute (VRI) to allow students to work on cases of disenfranchisement and provide training opportunities for students, attorneys and advocates. The institute has been created in partnership with the American Constitution Society (ACS) and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC).
The VRI will collect nationwide data through their website, and we will coordinate with other civil rights/voting rights organizations to shed light on what proposed voting changes will mean from both a legal and on-the-ground perspective at the local and national level. It will also monitor state and local websites and news articles identifying proposed or implemented voting changes, and will collect and distribute reporting from local sources to Voting Rights Institute-trained attorneys and other legal experts as appropriate, thereby helping groups in the field fill gaps in the current data collection, dissemination of information, and recruitment of legal advocates and volunteers.
The VRI website’s public portal will also provide voters an opportunity to find legal representation to protect their voting rights directly. A process which does not yet exist in the voting rights community. Voters can report their issues through an online intake form, which will then be reviewed by VRI staff at CLC, as well as attorneys and law students at the VRI at Georgetown Law. Using these resources, attorneys and law students at the VRI can then develop the facts about the issue raised in the intake form, determine whether a violation exists, and, if necessary, pursue litigation themselves or connect VRI-trained legal representation with the complainant. This screening process will be helpful in maximizing the efficiency of the voting rights bar.
Who will benefit from the VRI? The key beneficiaries of this project are:
- Voters, who will have access to information and legal resources protecting their voting rights.
- Georgetown law students who will gain ‘hands on’ practical training in the field of voting rights by experienced litigators in voting rights cases.
- Lawyers and community activists across the country who need access to current voting information, legal resources, and data, and who need training in the complex field of voting rights law.
- Voting rights and civil rights organizations, who face increasing demands on their limited resources to engage in voting rights enforcement.
- Members of the media who need information in real time about a voting rights issue.
The first class of students in VRI at Georgetown Law enrolled in August 2015 and currently are working on several cases. They include an amicus curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a Voting Rights Act case in Georgia, as well as possible litigation under the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) against a state or states that are failing to provide voter registration applications and materials at public assistance agencies.
No right is more precious than the right to vote.
VRI hopes that they will create a legacy to all those who have dedicated their lives, and in some cases given their lives, for the right to vote.
CLICK HERE for more information about the Voting Rights Institute.
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