William & Mary Law School’s Revive My Vote is pleased to announce it has received a grant of $230,000 through the Knight News Challenge, a grant program aimed at better informing voters and increasing civic participation before, during, and after elections.
Created in conjunction with the Williamsburg Bar Association and launched in April 2014, Revive My Vote helps Virginians with prior felony convictions who have served their time and are eligible for voting rights restoration to navigate the process of regaining their right to vote.
“We are extremely grateful to the Knight Foundation for this wonderful support of Revive My Vote’s work,” said Davison M. Douglas, dean of the Law School and Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law. “With these funds, Revive My Vote will have an even stronger impact as the program helps reestablish voting rights in Virginia and beyond.”
“Revive My Vote is excited for the opportunity to expand its efforts to help eligible Virginians regain their right to vote,” explained Professor Rebecca Green, co-director of the Law School’s Election Law Program and co-founder of Revive My Vote. “Revive My Vote seeks to address obstacles by improving application processing and identifying and motivating eligible citizens.”
Student volunteers and volunteer supervising attorneys at Revive My Vote have been helping applicants navigate the rights restoration process since the project’s launch. Revive My Vote also conducts extensive outreach alongside volunteers from William & Mary’s Black Law Students Association and the Center for Legal & Court Technology. Together they have reached out to more than 250 community organizations, businesses, and reentry programs to raise awareness of Virginians’ ability to restore their voting rights. Revive My Vote has also convened stakeholders from around Virginia to build best practices and share information in an effort to increase advocacy organizations’ effectiveness.
The Knight News Challenge grant will allow Revive My Vote to directly assist the office responsible for processing rights restoration applications, part of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth in Richmond, Virginia. The goal of this partnership is to help reduce applicant wait times.
The grant will also permit Revive My Vote to develop an easy-to-use online community platform that will inspire, motivate, and inform prospective applicants. The goal is to create a platform that is replicable for other organizations in Virginia and elsewhere.
“Our goal is to reduce application processing times in an innovative way and to become a one-stop-shop for everything people with prior felony convictions need to navigate the re-enfranchisement process,” said Mark Listes J.D. ’16, director and co-founder of Revive My Vote and William & Mary Law School Election Law Fellow. “We hope to use our new platform to motivate and educate in a new and unique way.”
The project is already working to establish a process by which students will assist in remotely processing applications. Also critical is finding, recruiting, and empowering sufficient numbers of law students to assist applicants statewide.
“Revive My Vote has an ongoing relationship with the Williamsburg Bar Association and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, along with other organizations,” Listes said. “We will leverage these connections to ensure a deep bench of students and attorneys dedicated to forwarding our efforts.”
In addition to helping Virginians with prior felony convictions regain their voting rights, the project also gives law students the chance to interface with the practice of law, interacting with clerks, courts, practicing attorneys, and people seeking help and guidance.
“Future lawyers see not only how practicing attorneys do their jobs, but they learn skills needed to accomplish tasks,” Green said. “Student volunteers at Revive My Vote present felony conviction histories to their supervising attorney, who in turn advises applicants on next steps. Students are in on the process every step of the way.”
Green said the Knight-funded project will take two years to complete, and will significantly impact Revive My Vote’s ability to make a difference in Virginia and elsewhere on this issue.
“The Knight Foundation’s generous support will allow Revive My Vote to affect meaningful change in the electoral system leading up to the 2016 presidential election,” Green said. “We look forward to working hard to achieve Revive My Vote and Knight’s goals.”
“Knight is a leading supporter of innovative ideas,” Listes added. “We are honored and excited to be a part of their next generation of innovations to inform and engage communities.”
The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities, and foster the arts. The Foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. The 2015 Knight News Challenge is a grant program in which Knight seeks to discover ideas and projects that better inform and inspire voters and increase civic participation beyond Election Day.