Nsombi Lambright – INNOVATOR

The Mississippi ACLU director tackles the triple threat of racial profiling, juvenile justice and felon disenfranchisement.

By Andre Banks Jan 15, 2007

Reclaiming civil rights for thousands

Several states throughout the country have laws limiting the voting rights of ex-felons, but Mississippi’s is one of the worst. If you are convicted of any of 10 crimes, you lose your voting rights permanently. (Yes, that’s right, forever.) And in 2005, the Attorney General moved to add an additional 11 crimes to the list making the reach of the law even broader, particularly in Black communities that are most affected in a system of disproportionate policing and racial profiling.

Enter Nsombi Lambright.

With a background working in service and social justice organizations throughout the state, Lambright joined the ACLU three years ago to tackle the triple threat of racial profiling, juvenile justice and felon disenfranchisement. When she came to the ACLU and hooked up with the national Right to Vote coalition, no one in Mississippi had a plan for getting the state’s Black electorate back on the rolls and educating and mobilizing the mass of eligible voters intimidated by years of miseducation and racist enforcement of election law.

In 2007, under Lambright’s leadership, they will mount the first-ever challenge to the law that arbitrarily strikes people from the rolls. "No person should be disenfranchised in Mississippi," Lambright says from her office in Jackson, Mississippi. A simple statement of a big idea that she and her colleagues are moving throughout the state. And if the ACLU succeeds in proving that the law is unconstitutional, the door will open to thousands of voters across the state, unleashing new potential to affect local, state and national politics.

While the courts work, Lambright is also educating and registering people all over the state who, until now, believed they were denied the franchise for life.

"After Katrina, more people are paying attention to who’s in office and how their leadership affects their lives," she asserts. "It serves as a wake-up call, and people are getting more involved in the city, state and federal government; they want their voices heard."

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