VOTE is a grassroots, membership based organization founded and run by Formerly Incarcerated Persons in partnership with allies dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against of FIPs. We believe that FIPs, their loved ones, allies and communities can use their experiences and expertise to improve public safety in New Orleans. Through civic engagement and training FIPs in the legal system, policy and legislation as well as other job and leadership skills VOTE will create a strong group of reformers to lead the transformation of our city’s criminal justice system.
Efforts toward jail-based voter registration in Louisiana began in 1987 with the Angola Special Civics Project, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola run by a group of detainees discovered that detainees who are not on probation, parole or serving time on a felony conviction could vote, they began to lobby their legislators and encourage their family and friends to vote. In 2003, several of these detainees were released, and took their efforts further, creating Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE), an organization focused on voter registration for pre-trial detainees and those convicted of misdemeanors in the state of Louisiana.
Since then VOTE has expanded its work to educating Formerly Incarcerated Persons (FIPs) about their rights and registering them to vote. VOTE has successfully registered hundreds of voters, educated the public about the collateral consequences that inhibit successful reentry and won several victories for the formerly incarcerated. In 2004,VOTE hosted the only conference on felony disenfranchisement in the history of the state.
VOTE has been successful as a small, volunteer led organization for the past 5 years, achieving great victories and a committed circle of volunteer leaders. In order to seize on the current energy around civic engagement and the upcoming critical elections, VOTE has brought on staff and created an ambitious but well planned agenda to effect greater change.