FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 13, 2020

CONTACT:
Debra Freeman, dfreeman@newvirginiamajority.org
Jeralyn Cave,
jcave@advancementproject.org
Ian Weiner, idweiner@lawyerscommittee.org
Josh Cohen, josh@newheightscommunications.com
Kayla Vix, kvix@lwv.org

Voting Rights Organizations File Lawsuit to Extend Virginia’s Voter Registration After Statewide Voting System Failure

Virginia Civic Engagement Table, New Virginia Majority, League of Women Voters of Virginia, Advancement Project National Office, and Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Call on the Commonwealth to Protect Voting Rights of Impacted Virginians

ALEXANDRIA, Va.Tonight, a coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the Virginia Department of Elections, Commissioner Cristopher Piper, and the State Board of Electionsto extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline after the Commonwealth’s voting systems went down earlier today, the last day that Virginians can register to vote. 

The lawsuit was filed this evening by Virginia Civic Engagement Table, New Virginia Majority, League of Women Voters of Virginia, Advancement Project National Office, and Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The groups are seeking to extend the online voter registration deadline for 48 hours after the system is restored and are asking Virginia to undertake a public campaign to help notify Virginians of this change. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signaled he would support a court ordered extension of the deadline at a press conference this afternoon.

The groups are also seeking a one-day extension of Virginia’s early voting period, as the outage also interfered with early voting; some individuals attempting to early vote today were instead only offered the opportunity to fill out a provisional ballot. The groups suggest that, in order to provide adequate relief for impacted voters, Virginia must implement an additional day of early voting and take affirmative steps to ensure that the provisional ballots that were cast today are counted.

“Virginians’ voting rights shouldn’t be hanging by a fiber-optic cable,” said Jorge Vasquez, Power and Democracy Director of Advancement Project National Office. “Extending the registration and early voting deadlines is the only way that Virginia can adequately address the harm this outage has caused to voters. We know the Commonwealth recognizes that this mishap has interfered with Virginians’ fundamental right to vote; we’re calling on Virginia to do right by its voters.”

“The Commonwealth failed the public and it must grant a significant extension to ensure all Virginians are given an equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Extending the registration deadline is a common-sense step that can be taken to address the potential disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible people across Virginia. This now marks two presidential election cycles in a row in which the state's registration system has collapsed and we hope that this will counsel in favor of stronger systems and backstops to prevent mass disenfranchisement in the future.” 

“All Virginians who are eligible to vote have a right to make their voices heard in our democracy, and the state has an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have that access,” said Irene Shin, Executive Director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table. “ We’re not asking for anything more than for the courts and the Board of Elections to fix what was broken today. In order to right this wrong, the Board of Elections must grant an extension of the deadline.

“Our democracy is strongest when we all have an opportunity to participate in our free and fair elections,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority. “The system wide failure impacted Virginians across the Commonwealth, preventing people from registering to vote for the first time or updating their registrations, and prevented many voters from casting a regular ballot during in-person early voting. To ensure that every Virginian has an opportunity to participate in our democracy, it is imperative that the court provides the requested relief for those affected. Just as we have done in the past, New Virginia Majority will continue to defend Virginians' access to the ballot box.”

“This is not the first time Virginia has had glitches with its voter registration website during prime times. With more than 5 million eligible voters in Virginia, it is crucial that the system can handle this large volume in voter interest,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Voters must not be silenced due to technical difficulties. The League is stepping in to make sure voters are given the opportunities they deserve to exercise their right to vote in this important election.”

###

New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @NewVAMajority

Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org/home to learn more.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.  For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org. 

The Virginia Civic Engagement Table is a statewide organization that serves a broad network of partners across the Commonwealth with a concentration in Northern Virginia, greater Richmond, and the tidewater region (which includes Newport News, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach). Our work is rooted in advancing economic, social, environmental, gender, and especially racial justice, as fundamental values that can end systems of oppression. For more information, visit our website.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, grassroots civic organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. With 100 years of experience, the League is one of America’s oldest and most trusted civic nonprofit organizations.





New Virginia Majority Endorses Candidates for Richmond City Council

Richmond, Va. - New Virginia Majority has decided to endorse two candidates for Richmond City Council: Amy Wentz for the 8th District and Stephanie Lynch for the 5th District. 

New Virginia Majority political director Maya Castillo said, "New Virginia Majority supports candidates who understand that the current systems aren't working for everyone. We look forward to partnering with Stephanie Lynch and Amy Wentz as they create the Richmond that is possible-- a Richmond where the voices of the most vulnerable are heard and centered." 

Amy Wentz, who seeks to represent the 8th District said, “It’s an honor to receive the endorsement of New Virginia Majority. Our campaign is rooted in improving the quality of life for ALL residents in the 8th District and changing how political power works in our favor. As an advocate for my community, I am fighting for working class people so we have access to economic opportunities, housing security, educational attainment and resources that have been denied for too long. Together, we can do great things to uplift underrepresented communities and fight against injustice.”

Stephanie Lynch, who is running for reelection in the 5th District said, “I am honored to have the support of New Virginia Majority. I share NVM's commitment to empowering our most marginalized residents, and over the last 10 months in office I have worked every day to give a voice to the working class communities that I serve. I look forward to continuing this work alongside the incredible activists, advocates, and community members that make up NVM as we fight for a Richmond that is just, democratic and sustainable.”


New Virginia Majority Statement on Presidential Endorsement

In advance of the first presidential debate, New Virginia Majority is announcing the endorsement of the Biden-Harris ticket for President and Vice President.

 In the wake of injustices and inequalities facing this nation, it is imperative that we elect candidates who have a history of engaging with working class people of color. Over the last decade, NVM has expanded the electorate in Virginia to be more reflective of Virginia’s rich diversity by registering nearly 300,000 new voters and knocking on over 3 million doors to get people of color and young people to the polls. As a result, Black and brown voters have turned out in record numbers, contributing to a new Virginia – one that gives voice to the most underrepresented among us, that values people no matter who we are, where we come from, where we live, or who we love.

 NVM has helped usher in sweeping change in Virginia, from restoring civil rights to over 200,000 formerly incarcerated people, expanding Medicaid for nearly 400,000 Virginians, allowing all immigrants, regardless of their status, to drive safely on our streets, and showing the country how to lead on expanding voting rights.

But Virginia, like the rest of the country, has a long way to go. Right now, we are facing some of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes - not only a public health crisis, but a crisis among our economic, political and social systems - the very fabric of this country.  

This year, healthcare, a global pandemic, racial equity, climate justice, voting rights, the Supreme Court and more hang in the balance. 200,000 people have died from COVID-19, and there is no clear way forward on how we are going to end the pandemic. Protesters are marching against police brutality and racial injustice. Families are being evicted from their homes because of lost wages in this unstable economic climate.

But there is still hope. We have seen firsthand in Virginia the progress that can be made when working class communities of color come together, vote, and hold elected officials accountable. 

Woven into the very fabric and foundation of our country is the idea that we have to form a more perfect union-the acknowledgement that we have to continually work towards making things better for us all. We can still live up to that notion, but it can only become reality through choosing leaders who will aim for a democracy that reflects everyone. Although one single presidential candidate can’t save us, we have the power to save ourselves-through our right to vote. 

New Virginia Majority believes the Biden-Harris ticket will work towards rolling back executive orders that have terrorized immigrants, sold out the environment to mining and oil companies, and ravaged the health and housing of working class communities of color.

Our organization looks forward to getting the Biden-Harris ticket elected and working in solidarity with progressive organizations across the country to take this nation on a path towards transformative change for all of us. The terrain of struggle for a democratic, just and sustainable United States will only advance with the election of Joe Biden as President.


New Virginia Majority Endorses Alexsis Rodgers for Richmond City Mayor

September 15, 2020

Richmond, Va. - New Virginia Majority has decided to endorse Alexsis Rodgers in the upcoming Richmond mayoral race on November 3. Rodgers is a champion for equity in schools, healthcare and housing, and she has a vision that includes all Richmonders. Additionally, her experience in crafting policy and advocacy that champions working Virginians, women, and people and color are reasons why the organization decided to enthusiastically support her candidacy. 

Ms. Rodgers’ deep commitment to the people of Richmond is not in words only. Her commitment has been illustrated through her years of frontline activism. As Mayor, she will continue to ensure that all people have a voice and a path to real policy and structural change,said New Virginia Majority board member Charlene Sinclair.

Rodgers said, “I look forward to fighting alongside New Virginia Majority to create progressive racial, economic and environmental justice policies as Richmond mayor. The work their members and staff do to protect and expand voting rights is crucial in ensuring our democracy is accessible, especially as we near Election Day. I am thankful for the support and endorsement of New Virginia Majority and together we will continue to build power for underrepresented communities.”

To speak with staff about the endorsement, contact Debra Freeman at 757-452-1143 or dfreeman@newvirginiamajority.org.

###

New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @NewVAMajority. 






Statement on Temporary Restraining Order Against Richmond Police Department Denial

 New Virginia Majority and Virginia Student Power Network Statement on Temporary Restraining Order Against Richmond Police Department Denial

Today the court denied a request to issue a temporary restraining order that would require the Richmond Police Department (RPD) to stop declaring unlawful assemblies and to end the usage of excessive force against protesters.

Last week, members of Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN) and a group of college students and community members exercised their right to protest when the RPD fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash grenades into the crowd. These tactics are meant to silence protestors against using their right to express opposition against racial injustice in Richmond.

In turn, VSPN filed a complaint to ask the court to acknowledge that the RPD was operating unlawfully and an order to stop the usage of fear tactics to discourage protestors from exercising their constitutional rights, along with a request for an immediate order to stop these violations.

Ibby Han, director of VSPN said, “as we saw over the weekend, RPD has continued to specifically target and inflict violence upon anti-racist protestors. Now, more than ever, we need to do everything in our power to diminish the scope of policing, and reinvest in real, community-led safety.”

Tram’s Nguyen, co-director of New Virginia Majority said, “as a Richmond resident, I am appalled at the police action against protestors. The RPD’s actions have put everyone in the city under a police state, and it is reprehensible for any residents to feel afraid of the police, especially while protesting.” 

We strongly disagree with the decision of the court, and will continue to fight for protestors to engage in assembly and to vocalize their anger and frustration with those who are trying to maintain an unequal racial status quo.


New Virginia Majority statement on the Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN) lawsuit

New Virginia Majority stands in solidarity with Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN) with the lawsuit filed today on their behalf against the City of Richmond, the Richmond Police Department (RPD), and the Virginia Department of State Police (VSP) for violating their constitutional right to free speech and assembly.

Over the past few weeks, there has been an escalation of police violence against protestors, which speaks to the pattern of over policing in communities across Virginia. Marcus David Peters, a Black Richmond resident in a mental health crisis, was shot in 2018 by a Richmond police officer, and this is only one example of the unchecked police brutality that exists in this city and country. “A boiling point has been reached, and people from all walks of life are starting to demand an immediate stop to police violence and real policy solutions from our leaders,” stated Tram Nguyen, NVM co-executive director. “As a lifelong Richmonder, I’m heartened to see that young Black people are leading the way, and using their voices to protest violence and senseless killings. We should follow their lead.” 

Members of VSPN and a group of college students and community members were exercising their right to protest on June 22-June 23 when the RPD and VSP used excessive force against them, and fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash grenades into the crowd. These tactics are meant to silence protestors against using their voice against racial injustice, racial inequities and police brutality. 

VSPN is asking for a declaration from the court that RPD and VSP have operated unlawfully, and an order to prohibit them from engaging in activities that violate protesters’ constitutional rights. Along with the complaint, a request was filed for an immediate order to stop these violations. 

We strongly support this lawsuit, and are hopeful that the court will uphold the right to participate in lawful assembly so that all Virginians will feel safe to vocalize their beliefs.


New Virginia Majority Response to Governor Northam’s Rent Relief Program

June 25, 2020
Contact: Debra Freeman, dfreeman@newvirginiamajority.org, 757-452-1143

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, working class communities were already stretching their incomes in order to maintain their households, but now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have lost their jobs, and are unable to provide housing stability for their families. 

Today, Governor Northam announced a rent relief program, where $50m from the CARES Act will be distributed to nonprofit organizations. These organizations will in turn provide money to landlords to make up the rental income that is currently being lost by tenants who are unable to pay rent. While this program is a good first step towards giving Virginians the relief they desperately need, this effort does not address that courts will resume the eviction process on June 29th, which leaves thousands of Virginians vulnerable to becoming homeless, and it is likely that many people will be evicted before the rent relief program is fully up and running.

The possibility of mass evictions in Virginia can be curtailed. We, along with the Legal Aid Justice Center and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, ask the governor to immediately use his broad emergency authority under Virginia Code 44-146.17 to prohibit evictions statewide until rent relief is fully funded and implemented. This will give tenants time to apply for rent relief and establish realistic payment plans for any unpaid balance. Additionally, this will allow landlords time to communicate with the courts and get cases dismissed with no need for any appearances from renters. 

In order for the rent relief program to be successful and to truly help Virginians, this is a crucial and common sense step that will allow the most economically vulnerable to stay in their homes and stay safe during this global pandemic. 


New Virginia Majority Response to Supreme Court Ruling on DACA

Today the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a 5-to-4 vote. The court’s opinion said that the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind DACA was “arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

New Virginia Majority applauds the decision of the Supreme Court to make nearly 800,000 “DREAMers” safe from deportation, allow them to legally work and to apply for college loans and financial aid. 

In 2017, when the lawsuit was first filed, DREAMERS like Jennifer, who came to America when she was ten years old, didn’t know what the future would hold. Today, that future is a little brighter. She said, “I received so much support from my teachers along the way who believed in me and inspired me to thrive even through difficult and uncertain times...no matter what, I know Virginia is my home and I am here to stay.”

Almost 25,000 Virginians have DACA status, and many of them are our neighbors. This protection has allowed them to create businesses, join the workforce, and provide for their families in cities across the commonwealth.

However, the Supreme Court’s decision is not a permanent one, as the administration can still rescind DACA. We need to work towards legislation that is inclusive for all Virginians, not just a few.

We will continue to stand with the immigrant community, along with communities of color and working class Virginians to live free from fear and with dignity, and will continue to work towards creating permanent protections for all immigrants.


New Virginia Majority Response to Protests in Virginia and Beyond

Across the state, people woke up to scenes of cars on fire, citizens being doused with tear gas and pepper spray and buses full of people who have been detailed but have been waiting for processing for hours. These bleak images on the news aren’t grainy black and white footage from cameras in 1964 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma or Montgomery. This is what is happening to citizens in the streets of Richmond in 2020.

Over the past weekend, our neighbors have taken to the streets to protest against the modern day lynching of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis and countless others who have been unnecessarily killed. But the problem isn’t just other cities. Right here in Richmond, Marcus David Peters, an unarmed high school biology teacher with no criminal history, was shot in 2018 by a police officer.

All of us need to be outraged. All of us need to be angry. But putting a Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media isn’t enough. Changing the name of a Richmond street to Arthur Ashe Boulevard is an honor, but it doesn’t actually provide any relief to people. If we actually want to see results...if we actually want to see a change in how Black and brown people are treated, then guess what? We have to actually do something. 

Several years ago, New Virginia Majority worked with the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project (RTAP), a coalition that was started in order to force the Richmond Police Department to be more transparent and accountable, to demand that the department release data on its policing practices. Some goals were achieved toward greater transparency, but there is still work to be done.

Since then, our friends and allies at RTAP have requested a citizen review board that would be an independent body composed of our neighbors, with seats for Black and brown residents and those who live in heavily policed districts in order to review police behavior. In addition, the coalition has asked the police department to create the Marcus Alert, which would train police officers in crisis intervention techniques and make the presence of mental health experts mandatory along with officers, rather than continuing to give officers the option to resort to lethal force when dealing with a citizen in distress. 

At the state level, we should take this a step further and have citizen review boards in every locality across the Commonwealth. Additionally, Virginia must change its open records laws to ensure that officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are not shielded from the public. 

Last year, we launched the Central Virginia Court Watch Initiative, created in response to the disproportionate representation of people of color and the poor in the criminal justice courts that feed into a system of mass incarceration. Court Watch uses community members to record and document court activities in order to gather data to spotlight bias or trends in sentencing.

We are at a crucial crossroads across the nation and across the commonwealth. It is time to demand more of our leaders. It is time to support each other through action and not just words. It is time to finally ensure that all of us are actually equal in practice, not just in theory. 

 


Coronavirus Hot Spot in Alexandria Endangers Entire Community At-Large

Alexandria, Va. - Today at 1 p.m., Tenants and Workers United (TWU) along with New Virginia Majority (NVM) will call on Governor Northam via Zoom to provide 10,000 tests over the next ten days to begin to accurately assess and address the spread of the virus, housing solutions to safely isolate, and the medical needs of the Arlandria neighborhood in Alexandria.  

Arlandria is primarily Latino, and as of yesterday 55% of the 572 tests given in Arlandria were positive. This rate of infection in this community of 16,000 is equivalent to global hot spot areas such as Queens, New York, Wuhan, China and Milan, Italy. Only concerted government action will control this outbreak, save lives and prevent even further community spread.

Evelin Urrutia, executive director of TWU said, "in our community, testing a person, finding them sick with coronavirus and then sending them back to a one-bedroom apartment where four other people live is a potential death sentence, and at the [very] least a formula for wider community spread. Arlandria residents need to work to survive...most work in construction, care and service [industries] and this community spread, if not addressed, will surely impact the entire region.”

Jon Liss, co-executive director of NVM, joins TWU in calling for the governor to immediately address what is happening in the Arlandria community. "Before the governor considers reopening the state he needs to leave the governor's mansion and see what is happening here. Without thousands of tests, access to isolated housing, and medical treatment, Arlandria residents face more illness and for some, death," said Liss.

To join the Zoom press conference or speak with staff, contact Debra Freeman at 757-452-1143 or dfreeman@newvirginiamajority.org.

######

New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our websiteand follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @NewVAMajority


connect

get updates