Fair Elections Center

Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization that works to remove barriers to registration and voting, particularly those disenfranchising underrepresented and marginalized communities, and to improve election administration. Fair Elections Center was established in 2017 as a 501(c)(3) organization and continues the work of the Fair Elections Legal Network, which was established in 2006 by Washington D.C. public interest lawyer Bob Brandon and former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman.

Fair Elections Center’s attorneys and advocates deliver nonpartisan creative solutions to the complex barriers that continue to be erected to prevent citizens from registering to vote and casting a ballot that counts. Working alongside other national and state civil rights and community-based organizations, the Center works to make the processes of voter registration, voting, and election administration accessible for every American, focusing on underrepresented communities and students.

THE CASE: The Center and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center are challenging Kentucky’s arbitrary process for voting rights restoration for felons. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight former felons. Kentucky is one of three states that deny the right to vote to all former felons until they petition for rights restoration. 

According to the Sentencing Project, as of 2016, Kentucky had an estimated 242,987 felons who were still disenfranchised after completing their full sentences including parole and probation, or 7% of the state’s voting-age population.  Kentucky's voting rights restoration process requires felons who have completed their full sentences to apply for restoration to the Department of Corrections' Division of Probation and Parole. The Division screens the applications and forwards them to the governor’s office where the governor has unconstrained power to grant or deny applications with no rules, laws, or criteria governing these restoration determinations. Without any rules, applicants seeking restoration are subjected to arbitrary decision-making and the risk of biased treatment, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, according to the lawsuit. The process also lacks any time limits for when the Department of Corrections or the governor must act. This delay has created a backlog of applications in Kentucky. As of March 2018, there was a backlog of 1,459 restoration of civil rights applications.

Grant contact: Robert M. Brandon, president and CEO, rbrandon@fairelectionscenter.org, 202.331.0114