Grace. Redemption. Second Chances.
My name is Erik Richerson. I filed to run for Fort Worth City Council District 9 on January 19, 2021 and signed a sworn statement that said, “I have not been finally convicted of a felony for which I have not been pardoned or had my full rights of citizenship restored by other official action.” The City Secretary signed this paper and verified my voter registration status. Now the City Secretary says I’m not eligible.
On April 13, 2021, I received a letter from the City Secretary confirming my eligibility. She sent this letter in response to one of my opponents sending her information about my 1999 felony conviction at the age of 17. Late in the afternoon on Friday, April 16 – the last business day before early voting started – I received another letter from the City Secretary, but this time I was declared ineligible based on new information received from the opponent. The new information was insufficient to prove my rights had not been restored.
On the evening of April 16 the local newspaper ran a story about my 1999 conviction. What the paper reported about my crime in Washington state is true, “After drinking nearly half a fifth of Southern Comfort whiskey at a Seattle club in 1999, Erik Richerson, then 17," robbed a pair of drug dealers "of $160 using an unloaded 9-mm handgun.” I had a troubled youth, and we didn’t have a lot of money. The Washington state criminal justice system assigned me a public defender, and the state sent me to prison for 7 years until 2006. But in Washington state, once an individual completes their sentence, the state automatically restores the person’s civil rights. That’s why in 2015 I was eligible to run for City Council in Everett, Washington.
On Saturday, April 17, 2021, my attorney and I met with the City Secretary and City Attorney and presented information showing I was eligible and ran for City Council in Washington state in 2015. But Fort Worth came up with new requirements on the spot and said I would have to get another piece of paper to prove my rights were restored. The injustice of the moment was only exceeded by its indignity.
Under Texas law, Election Code Section 141.001(a)(4) provides that a candidate for public office must “have not been finally convicted of a felony from which the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities.” I signed the sworn statement of candidacy in January stating I had been released from resulting disabilities because Washington state had restored my rights. But the Texas law is ambiguous, so cities apply whatever standard they come up with to rule people ineligible.
Since I served my time, I’ve been serving my family, my customers, and my church. I am a living example that no life is beyond redemption. I’m married for fourteen years now to the love of my life, Cristina, and together we have a son and a daughter. I’m the owner of two successful small businesses. I lead worship at my church and serve in a variety of ministries. My campaign is about more than this election - it's about being an example and inspiration for young African-American men who are disproportionately incarcerated and affected by the criminal justice system. And that means this Texas election law affects black men disproportionately, too.
I’d love to have your vote for justice. But even more, I’d love to have your support as we build a movement to reform this unjust law. Will you join us by signing this petition to let people like me have a second chance to serve?