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Headshot of Grace Thomas

Grace Thomas

  • Hosted by Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law
  • Sponsored by A&O Shearman, Thomson Reuters
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Prisoners' Rights, Voting Rights/Electoral Participation
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Through the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Grace (they/them) supports eligible incarcerated voters to build power and voting access structures in jurisdictions without jail-based absentee ballot access through advocacy, coalition building, and impact litigation.

Over 480,000 incarcerated people on any given day are detained pre-trial, most of whom are eligible voters, as they are not serving felony convictions during their incarceration. Although a handful of jails allow people to vote in person inside their facilities, most voters across the nation can only vote through absentee ballots. Yet since 2021, at least nineteen states have passed restrictive absentee ballot legislation. These restrictions effectively make it even harder for an incarcerated person to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, Grace will advocate for incarcerated voters in states where restrictive absentee voting laws create barriers to jail-based voting access. Grace will use community lawyering methods to collaborate with local organizations and advocates, county officials, and incarcerated voters and build local power through sustainable coalition-building. Grace will lead educational campaigns for county officials and incarcerated voters to create local programs inside jails, provide voters with direct services, and devise litigation strategies when advocacy efforts are insufficient.

Grace’s experiences watching their older sister being unable to exercise her right to vote while in jail—despite being an eligible voter—fuels their work for incarcerated populations. Their sister’s eventual disenfranchisement propelled them before and throughout law school to support voters in a local jail in Austin, Texas vote.

The right to vote secures all other rights in our democratic process. A person’s incarceration should not make that right any less real, and I am dedicated to making the right a reality for all incarcerated voters.

Grace Tomas /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Lalita Moskowitz

Host: American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico

Sponsor: Anonymous