Each year, the ACLU of Washington’s Civil Libertarian Award is presented to individuals who make outstanding contributions to ensuring civil rights. 2007 honorees Mina Barahimi, Bess McKinney, Julia McLean, María Elena Ramírez, Marcia Skok, Robert Wilhite and LeeAnn Woodrum have helped many people navigate the complex, often bewildering process to regain their right to vote.
State law takes away the right to vote from people who have their served time in prison, but who owe fees and penalties imposed by court as part of their sentence. As volunteers with the Voting Rights Restoration Project, the award recipients have worked tirelessly on behalf of citizens who are disenfranchised due to felony convictions. They have devoted thousands of hours to researching case histories, compiling court documents, and organizing requests to prosecutors and court officials, all to ensure that an individual’s ability to vote is not conditioned on their financial means.
The group just celebrated a major milestone: they won back the ballot for their 100th client.
“As painstakingly slow as the process is, the restoration of even one person’s voting rights is an enormous moral victory for everyone involved,” says Barahimi.