Dana Paikowsky

  • Hosted by Campaign Legal Center
  • Sponsored by The Arnold & Porter Foundation
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Voting Rights/Electoral Participation
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Dana’s Fellowship used outreach, advocacy, and litigation to protect the right to vote for eligible voters in pretrial detention and ensure they have meaningful access to the ballot.

2.3 million people are incarcerated every day in the United States, one-third of whom are incarcerated in jails in pretrial detention or for misdemeanor convictions. Most of these 750,000 people retain their right to vote because they have not been convicted of a disqualifying felony. Because these voters are in jail, though, they cannot vote in person, and accessing election information and absentee ballots can be difficult or impossible. Dana ensured these voters had real access to the ballot box and could exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Dana’s experience while running a canvassing program brought into stark relief how racism and poverty operate in complex, insidious ways to restrict access to the ballot box and disempower those who have been historically marginalized. It showed her who she wanted to work for; she wanted her canvassers to be her clients.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Dana:

  • Created a system for mail-based voter outreach to jailed voters that has provided know your rights information to thousands of incarcerated voters in Virginia and Arizona
  • Worked on advocacy to successfully pressure Arizona to promulgate a rule requiring local election officials have plans in place to enfranchise jailed voters
  • Worked on several oversight reports, shedding light on jail-based disenfranchisement at the state and local levels
  • Worked with local coalitions to draft legislation to address jail-based disenfranchisement in four states and one of those bills passed in Maryland in 2021
  • Created an advocacy guide to empower advocates and educate the public on jail-based disenfranchisement
  • Co-hosted a series of webinars on jail-based disenfranchisement that have had more than 600 attendees

Next Steps

Dana will be joining the Department of Justice in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division. In that role, Dana will continue to litigate cases to vindicate the rights of historically marginalized voters.


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