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Pennsylvania Victory: Wilmington Native Defeating Voter Suppression

Written by Peter Grear, Esq. on 24 January 2014.

Readers will have to pardon me this week as I confess to the sin of pride.  But proud I am and so should be the millions around the country threatened by and fighting against voter suppression.  Last week the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania declared that the Pennsylvania voter ID law was unconstitutional.  This is the most important voter rights decision since the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights in June of 2013.  This decision will be used in lawsuits around the country by other litigators fighting voter suppression.

The lead team of litigators was the Pennsylvania ACLU.  My protégé, Reginald T. (Reggie) Shuford, is the executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU and oversaw the litigation.  He directed me to stress the fact that he shouldn’t be given undue credit for the victory as others on his staff were more directly involved in the litigation and did much of the work.  I understand that they are also assisting in the North Carolina litigation.   

In addition to Reggie’s importance to the fight against voter suppression and the protection of other civil liberties he is a very important role model and testament to opportunities attainable with hard work and a good education.  You see, I was raised with Reggie’s parents in a marginalized low income neighborhood with very limited opportunities.  I was the first lawyer that he knew and gave him his first summer job as he studied at the University of North Carolina.  He declares that I was his “role model”.  I trust that after reading his accomplishments others will chose him as their role model. 

This week's headline of GDN talks about the ACLU of Pennsylvania welcoming Reggie Shuford as its Executive Director on September 6, 2011. Before joining the ACLU-PA, Shuford, served as the Director of Law and Policy at the Equal Justice Society (EJS), a national strategy group heightening consciousness on race in the law and popular discourse. 

Prior to EJS, Shuford served as senior staff counsel in the national American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Program. An attorney with the ACLU from 1995 to April 2010, he helped pioneer legal challenges to racial profiling practices nationwide. He was the ACLU’s chief litigator in challenges to racial profiling, leading national litigation efforts and consulting with ACLU state affiliates and others in cases of “driving while black or brown,” airport profiling, and profiling related to the war on terror. 

Shuford’s advocacy to promote affirmative action includes leading efforts in Missouri and Oklahoma to defeat anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives, similar to California’s Prop. 209.  Shuford’s ACLU docket has also included cases involving educational adequacy and equity, the school to prison pipeline, and the right to counsel for indigents. He has been involved in advocacy against racism in the use of the death penalty. After September 11, 2001, working with colleagues around the country, he filed a half dozen landmark lawsuits against major airlines alleging racial discrimination, as well as a nationwide challenge to the Transportation Security Administration’s management of the No-Fly List. 

He has authored numerous petitions and briefs for cases that were presented to the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with matters of discrimination, the Equal Protection Clause and First and Fourth Amendment rights. He has published articles related to reclaiming the 14th Amendment, racial profiling, affirmative action, and violence in the African-American community. 

Shuford also teaches and speaks regularly around the country and internationally, including Moscow, Geneva, and Canada, on issues of racial justice, profiling, discrimination, national security, and other topics, and has appeared on numerous television programs, including CNN’s Burden of Proof and Talk Back Live, ABC’s 20/20, Court TV’s Pros and Cons and Crier Today, NBC’s Nightly News and Dateline, an MTV documentary, True Life: I Am Driving While Black, and was featured in Leading the Way: The History of Black Lawyers and Judges in America Throughout the Twentieth Century, on Court TV. 

He has been interviewed on various radio and TV programs, including National Public Radio and MSNBC, and has been quoted in major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and The Guardian. In addition to his litigation responsibilities, Shuford was the ACLU’s first Recruitment and Retention Officer for attorneys of color on the national legal staff. 

Prior to the ACLU, Shuford worked in private practice in Raleigh, NC, with the firm Richard Schwartz & Associates, specializing in education law. Just after graduating law school, he clerked with the Hon. Henry E. Frye of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, where he was his graduating class president. Shuford has been a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School and is the recent recipient of the University of North Carolina School of Law’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.  He is a 2009 graduate of the Georgetown Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program. 

Reggie noted that “Since I became executive director in September 2011, voting rights has been elevated as a core priority of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.  Our successful effort to prevent the voter ID law from taking effect in Pennsylvania demonstrates vividly that voter suppression is not just a relic of the past.  There is a reason why so much time, effort and resources have gone into depriving certain Americans of the most fundamental right of all. Voting is the most direct and easy way to participate in our democracy and to have a voice in the direction in which our country should go. Not everyone believes you should have a voice, however.  That is precisely why we are committed to protecting the right to vote for everyone. Win or lose, we intend to be in this fight until the very end”.

  Additionally, he said “my work combating voting and other forms of discrimination is directly related to growing up in the housing projects of Wilmington, NC.  I saw early on the lack of opportunity for poor black people and the daily injustices that went along with that.  I decided at age 6 that I would become a lawyer to advocate on behalf of those who were voiceless, to fight for the dignity that everyone deserves merely because we are all human.  I was fortunate to have a mother, a few teachers, and a role model to point me in the right direction at critical steps along the way.  I feel strongly that each of us owes that same responsibility to the next generation”.

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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression.  To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/votersuppression, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website www.GreaterDiversity.com.  Also, to promote the campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. Additionally, please follow us on Twitter at @yourrighttovote.