Back to top

Kwame Akosah

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Kwame Akosah

Kwame Akosah

City, State: New York, New York
Issue area: Voting Rights/Electoral Participation
Sponsors: The Ottinger Foundation, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

The Project

Kwame will restore the right to vote for Americans with criminal convictions that have been denied this right despite laws to the contrary.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Voting is a fundamental right. Nevertheless, many otherwise eligible Americans have been denied the franchise due to felon disenfranchisement laws—a total of 5.83 million Americans in forty-eight states. The impact on African-American voters is especially stark. In Kentucky, Virginia and Florida, 1 in 5 eligible African-American voters are disenfranchised. Although every state with a felon disenfranchisement law offers some path to “restore” one’s voting rights, restoration is often illusory due to widespread confusion among officials about felony disenfranchisement and restoration policies. This leads to de facto disenfranchisement of eligible voters with criminal convictions, frequently through the spread of misinformation about voter qualifications or the removal of eligible voters from voter rolls. Currently, there are insufficient resources devoted to serving eligible voters impacted by de facto disenfranchisement.
The Right Person For This Project
Kwame is the right person for the project because:
• He has worked for nationally recognized voting rights organizations - including the Brennan Center for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Project Vote - as an advocate and researcher litigating voter ID laws during the 2014 elections and expanding voter registration opportunities to clients and applicants of public assistance programs
• He developed a unique understanding of the challenges public officials face in implementing election laws during his experience expanding voter registration in New York City while working at the Mayor’s Office of Operations
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Kwame will:
• Partner with community organizations engaged in prisoner re-entry programs in New York and New Jersey in order to identify eligible voters improperly denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction
• Provide direct representation to victims of de facto disenfranchisement
• Develop advocacy and educational materials and reach out to law enforcement groups, re-entry programs, and departments of corrections about incorporating voting rights restoration information into existing release and re-entry programs