Headshot of Ashley Harris

Ashley Harris

  • Hosted by American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
  • Sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
  • Service location Houston, Texas
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform, Human Rights, Voting Rights/Electoral Participation
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Ashley (she/her/hers) works to protect the voting rights of Texans affected by the criminal justice system by expanding voting access to people incarcerated pretrial, people formerly incarcerated, and low-income communities.

Texas’ intentional disenfranchisement laws have left the state with the lowest rate of voter turnout in the country, and Texas has one of the highest rates of criminal convictions. Voting is even harder for those who encounter the criminal justice system—disproportionately Black, Latino, and low-income people.

Three-quarters of Harris County’s 9,000-person jail population are eligible voters; however, it is nearly impossible to vote in a Texas jail. People convicted of felonies are eligible to vote in Texas once they have completed their sentence, including parole or probation, but there is often tremendous confusion about eligibility. When people impacted by the criminal justice system do vote, they face obstacles, and they often live and work in communities with fewer resources for voting.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Ashley has:

  • Represented a client who was criminally prosecuted under the election code
  • Participated in litigation challenging Senate Bill 1, which increases the criminal provisions in the Texas election code
  • Conducted Know Your Rights and other presentations to Texas voters
  • Participated in litigation challenging Texas’ discriminatory redistricting and voter roll practices, targeted at voters of color
  • Investigated Texas’ policies of purging voters from voter rolls
  • Received media and motions practice training

Next Steps

In the next year, Ashley plans to:

  • Monitor the changing laws surrounding criminal prosecutions under the Texas election code and provide educational materials relating to these changes
  • Continue to participate in ongoing litigation, including challenging the increased criminal provisions in the Texas election code as a result of Senate Bill 1
  • Evaluate and respond to election concerns during the 2023 Texas legislative session

Voting is power. I want to help return power to communities that need it most.

Ashley Harris /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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