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Civil Rights Organizations Bring Their Expertise to Hayden v. Pataki

January 15, 2003

For Immediate Release

Contact Information:
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6736

Filing Today in Hayden v. Pataki
Leading Civil Rights Organizations Bring Expertise to a Pioneering Vote Restoration Case

Statement of Deborah Goldberg, Acting Director of the Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: We applaud the efforts of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and its co-counsel in this case, the Community Service Society of New York and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, in seeking leave to amend the complaint in this landmark voting rights restoration case. These organizations add deep legal expertise to a suit of great importance, which otherwise would have been litigated by a plaintiff, pro se. With so fundamental a right at stake, justice requires that the case be permitted to proceed on the basis of the amended complaint prepared with the assistance of experienced counsel.

There are few rights as fundamental to citizens of a democracy as the right to vote, and the Brennan Center welcomes this effort to restore the voting rights of New Yorkers who have been convicted of felonies. We hope not only that this case prevails in court but also that it raises awareness in New York State and beyond of the 4.7 million Americans who are being denied the right to vote as the result of a past felony conviction. In this age of plummeting voter turnout, we should be making every possible effort to encourage civic engagement and to bring voters to the polls.

The Brennan Center is currently lead counsel in a similar case in the state of Florida, where more than 600,000 ex-felons are permanently denied their voting rights. In Florida, as in New York, felon disfranchisement laws have a discriminatory impact on communities of color. The Florida case, Johnson v. Bush, was filed in September of 2000 and is scheduled for argument in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit this April.

For more information, please visit the Muntaqim/Hayden page.