Non-profit

Voice of the Experienced (VOTE)

Location:

NEW ORLEANS, LA

Tax ID:

16-1695266

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $1,042,270
Expenses: $815,573
Assets: $904,206

Website:

https://www.vote-nola.org

Location:

New Orleans, LA

Tax ID:

16-1695266

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Formation:

2012

Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) is a left-of-center advocacy organization founded by formerly incarcerated people and anti-prison activists in 2004. Operating in Louisiana, VOTE aims to provide increased political and social opportunities for former convicts and argues for decreased incarceration. [1] VOTE claims credit for former President Barack Obama’s administration’s decision to outlaw the practice of asking candidates for federal employment about their criminal records. [2] VOTE has supported similar policies in the state of Louisiana, has taken action to prevent landlords from considering a potential tenant’s criminal history, and advocated for felons to be able to vote. [3] [4] [5]

VOTE founder and executive director Norris Henderson and deputy director Bruce Reilly were both formerly incarcerated for murder. [6] [7]

History

In 1982, Norris Henderson and Kenneth Johnston, who were then incarcerated for murder, began organizing fellow inmates during prison riots to respond to increasingly strict drug policy. Three years later, Henderson and Johnston began teaching law classes to other inmates in an attempt to organize them further. In 1990, Henderson and Johnston formed the Angola Special Civics Project (ASCP) for inmates to advocate for political policies while still incarcerated in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Norris worked with ASCP until he was released on parole in 2003. A year later, Norris and several former ASCP members established Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), originally called Voice of the Ex-Offenders until 2016. Norris also started working with a group called the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), which now functions as a local affiliate of VOTE. By 2008, VOTE began to hire paid staff to pursue left-of-center anti-prison initiatives. [8]

VOTE Activities

Voice of the Experienced is vocal in its opposition to the United States criminal justice system, labelling the United States a “carceral state” and advocating for a total or near-abolition of prisons. VOTE is led entirely by formerly incarcerated people. The organization has published a set of left-of-center demands, including limiting incarceration, ending the deportation of illegal immigrants, and giving all convicted felons the right to vote. [9]

VOTE claims that employment, housing, medical, and voting rights are denied to former prisoners and promotes  policies to expand them through activism and legislative advocacy. [10]

Advocacy on Behalf of Former Prisoners

VOTE opposes the right of employers, particularly government employers, to consider a job applicant’s criminal record. In 2015, VOTE successfully lobbied the Obama administration to remove all questions about criminal history from federal job applications. The following year, VOTE successfully implemented a similar standard in Louisiana, convincing the state government to remove questions related to criminal history from roughly 40,000 state job applications. In 2017. VOTE placed further pressure on the Louisiana government, demanding that the Louisiana Civil Service Commission remove criminal history questions from applications for classified jobs. [11]

VOTE also opposes the right of landlords and housing authorities to consider a potential tenant’s criminal record. In the fall of 2018, the organization launched a campaign to ban questions about criminal history from both public and private rental applications in New Orleans. [12]

When Louisiana passed Act 636, which made it legal for most felons to vote, VOTE celebrated the move as restoring the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people. [13] VOTE has also alleged that prisoners are denied medical rights, partnering with Tulane University School of Medicine to provide medical assistance to former prisoners through its Formerly Incarcerated Transitions Clinic. [14]

Rights for Victims of Criminal Activity

VOTE claims to support crime prevention and to represent the interests of those who have been victimized by crime by partnering with a left-of-center national organization called Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ). Yet CSSJ itself advocates against incarceration, explicitly opposing the construction of more facilities for incarceration. CSSJ’s platform only focuses on economic development in high-crime communities to prevent “cycles” of crime, rather than defending the rights of individual victims. [15]

Leadership and Funding

Norris Henderson is the founder and executive director of Voice of the Experienced . Henderson’s biography claims he was “wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years” (a claim Advocate columnist James Gill rejected in a column on Henderson’s life and work[16]) and calls him “a trailblazer for freeing other wrongfully convicted people.” Henderson is a former Soros Justice Fellow. [17] The Open Society Institute was founded by billionaire hedge fund manager and currency trader George Soros. [18] Soros supports left-of-center causes around the world and has contributed a total of $32 billion to left-leaning organizations. [19]

Despite VOTE’s claim that Henderson was wrongfully convicted, his murder conviction has never been legally overturned. Henderson was implicated in the murder of Henry Joseph in 1974 by Joseph’s sister, Betty Jean Joseph. In 1975, Betty Jean herself was shot and identified Henderson as her assailant before she died. A jury convicted Henderson of her murder in 1977, and an appeals court upheld the conviction. Judge Calvin Johnson also upheld Henderson’s conviction in a 1994 bench trial, but nonetheless released Henderson in 2003 when he became eligible for parole. [20]

Bruce Reilly is the deputy director of VOTE. Reilly served nearly 12 years for second-degree murder before being released from prison with a 20-year probationary sentence. [21]

In 2018, VOTE reported more than $1.88 million in total revenue and net assets of more than $1.38 million. VOTE still goes by its old name, “Voice of the Ex-Offenders,” for financial purposes. [22]

References

  1. Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org ^
  2. “Employment Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/employment-rights.html ^
  3. “Employment Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/employment-rights.html ^
  4. “Housing Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/housing-rights.html ^
  5. “Voting Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/voting-rights.html ^
  6. James Gill, “For convicted killer Norris Henderson, ‘rehabilitated’ does not mean innocent,” The Times-Picayune, June 1, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.nola.com/opinions/james_gill/article_33367727-d61c-509d-b044-f1ca717dc95b.html ^
  7. Katy Reckdahl and Bryn Stole, “Convicted felons out of prison on parole, probation now allowed to vote in Louisiana, but not all do,” The Times-Picayune, October 5, 2019. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.nola.com/news/politics/article_21c3ea7e-e7c5-11e9-bb6c-7b8cee9c755e.html ^
  8. “Our History,” Voice of the Experience. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/our-history.html ^
  9. “Who We Are,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/who-we-are.html ^
  10. “What We Do,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/what-we-do.html ^
  11. “Employment Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/employment-rights.html ^
  12. “Housing Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/housing-rights.html ^
  13. “Voting Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/voting-rights.html ^
  14. “Medical Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/medical-rights.html ^
  15. “Survivors’ Rights,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/crime-survivors-rights.html ^
  16. Gill, James. “James Gill: For Convicted Killer Norris Henderson, ‘Rehabilitated’ Does Not Mean Innocent.” NOLA.com, June 1, 2017. https://www.nola.com/opinions/james_gill/article_33367727-d61c-509d-b044-f1ca717dc95b.html. ^
  17. “Norris Henderson,” Voice of the Experienced. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.vote-nola.org/norris-henderson.html ^
  18. Alexander Joffe and Gerald Steinberg, “Bad Investment: The Philanthropy of George Soros and the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” NGO Monitor, May 2013. Accessed September 17, 2020. http://www.ngo-monitor.org/soros.pdf ^
  19. Lauren Debter, “How George Soros Became One Of America’s Biggest Philanthropists And A Right-Wing Target,” Forbes, October 23, 2018. Accessed June 25, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurengensler/2018/10/23/how-george-soros-became-one-of-americas-biggest-philanthropists-and-a-right-wing-target/ ^
  20. James Gill, “For convicted killer Norris Henderson, ‘rehabilitated’ does not mean innocent,” The Times-Picayune, June 1, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.nola.com/opinions/james_gill/article_33367727-d61c-509d-b044-f1ca717dc95b.html ^
  21. Katy Reckdahl and Bryn Stole, “Convicted felons out of prison on parole, probation now allowed to vote in Louisiana, but not all do,” The Times-Picayune, October 5, 2019. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.nola.com/news/politics/article_21c3ea7e-e7c5-11e9-bb6c-7b8cee9c755e.html ^
  22. Voice of the Ex-Offenders, “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax,” Internal Revenue Service, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2020.https://apps.irs.gov/pub/epostcard/cor/161695266_201812_990_2020013017087323.pdf ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2012

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $1,042,270 $815,573 $904,206 $16,709 N $0 $1,042,270 $0 $347,696 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $1,078,335 $581,340 $671,666 $10,992 N $0 $1,078,335 $0 $246,947 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $332,809 $276,832 $130,898 $110 N $6,415 $326,394 $0 $105,793
    2014 Dec Form 990 $223,599 $177,647 $94,017 $19,500 N $4,803 $218,785 $11 $63,350 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $216,285 $231,198 $28,565 $0 N $0 $216,285 $0 $56,908 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $112,891 $73,907 $38,869 $0 N $112,891 $0 $0 $20,200 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Voice of the Experienced (VOTE)

    2022 SAINT BERNARD AVE
    NEW ORLEANS, LA 70116-1319