WASHINGTON - As we head into an election year, Georgetown University is hoping to give its law students some real life experience on voter’s rights. In fact, students are already working on cases involving disenfranchised voters.
The first class is already underway this semester and students are working on real cases. The university created its first ever Voting Rights Institute with the help of the American Constitution Society for Law and Public Policy.
Georgetown says it was all sparked by a Supreme Court case which nullified a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“In Shelby County v. Holder, in that case, the Supreme Court in a narrow ruling, 5-4, gutted a major enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act,” said Jeremy Leaming, vice president of the American Constitution Society. “Prior to that decision, the federal government had the ability to investigate and potentially stop discriminatory voting laws from going into place.”
The institute's creators say the goal is to protect the right to vote while training the next generation of lawyers and leaders at Georgetown University. Their main mission is to defend what remains of the Voting Rights Act.
The first group of students in the Voting Rights Institute is enrolled in Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation.
The students are working on several cases identified by the Campaign Legal Center and the American Constitution Society. We are told the cases include possible litigation under the National Voting Rights Act against states that fail to provide voter registration applications and materials at public assistance agencies.
“Virginia has an onerous photo ID law, and according to the Brennan Center and other studies in 2014, it affected the turnout there substantially,” said Leaming. “A lot of active voters were turned away because they didn't have the proper photo ID.”
The students will work with attorneys, professors and leaders in the voting rights field. We are told this is a non-partisan effort.
One of the creators, who is also an attorney, says the idea began almost as a dare from his wife who told him, “You're one of the youngest people trying to enforce voting rights. You ought to get busy training the next generation of voting right lawyers.”