Photo of Kwame Akosah

Kwame Akosah

  • Hosted by Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, The Ottinger Foundation
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Fordham University School of Law
  • Issue area Voting Rights/Electoral Participation
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Despite being otherwise eligible, more than five million Americans in forty-eight states are unable to vote due to felon disenfranchisement laws. African Americans, in particular, face the brunt of these policies—in Kentucky, Virginia, and Florida, roughly one in five eligible African American voters are disenfranchised. Although every state with a felon disenfranchisement law offers some path to “restore” one’s voting rights, this path is often illusory due to widespread confusion and misunderstanding of restoration policies among officials. As a result, many eligible voters with criminal convictions face de facto disenfranchisement, frequently through the spread of misinformation about voter qualifications, or the removal of eligible voters from voter rolls. Kwame’s project aimed to address the insufficient resources devoted to serving eligible voters impacted by de facto disenfranchisement.

Kwame previously worked at nationally recognized voting rights organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union and Project Vote—expanding voter registration opportunities to clients and applicants of public assistance programs, and as an advocate and researcher litigating voter ID laws during the 2014 elections. While working at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, Kwame developed a unique understanding of the challenges faced by public officials who seek to implement election laws.

Fellowship Highlights

During his Fellowship, Kwame pushed for voting rights restoration legislation in nine states, and helped achieve passage in four state legislatures, including Maryland where 40,000 people had their voting rights restored. He wrote a report on New Jersey’s criminal disenfranchisement law that was quoted during a New Jersey gubernatorial debate, and submitted an analysis to the Nebraska state legislature that was read from the floor of the legislature, and helped get a voting rights restoration bill passed in that body. Additionally, he recruited national probation and parole associations to join with the Brennan Center to advocate for voting rights restoration as an important part of the re-entry process.

What’s Next

Following his Fellowship, Kwame has joined the New York City Corporation Counsel as an Honors Fellow, where he advises the Mayor and other city government officials on matters of law and policy including voting rights and election administration.

Media

Fighting for the Right to Vote in Louisiana

Keep Politics Out of Virginia Voting Rights Restoration

Restore ex-felons’ voting rights — it’s the right thing

Understanding the history of voter suppression and gerrymandering

Monsignor Murray Prize Awarded to Voting Rights Advocate

Instead of throwing away resources to keep citizens from voting, evidence suggests restoring rights actually boosts public safety and helps these individuals re-enter society.

Kwame Akosah /
Miami Herald

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