AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Amidst a legal challenge by the ACLU of Colorado, Aurora City Council voted to modify city code Monday to allow people with felony convictions to run for office. Until Monday, both city code and the city charter banned people convicted of a felony from becoming a candidate and holding elective office.
The 7-2 vote changes the code, but not the charter, which would need to be approved by voters.READ MORE: CSU Pueblo Student Robert Killis Arrested After Detectives Find Large Cache Of Weapons In Vehicle, Apartment
In May, the ACLU of Colorado sued the City of Aurora in an attempt to allow activist Candice Bailey to run for City Council in November. Bailey was convicted of second degree assault in 1999.
“My life is 180 degrees different than 1999,” Bailey told CBS4. “I have done the things that you should do to reinstate who you are as a human being in society. I have gone above and beyond.”
On Tuesday, Bailey turned in her nomination petition for the at-large council seat to Aurora’s Office of the City Clerk ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline.
“I am prepared to run a campaign,” she said. “I am prepared to really make the changes that are necessary in our community.”
The ACLU’s lawsuit argues the rules denying felons the ability to run for office violates the state constitution. Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, said people who complete their criminal sentences should regain their full rights, including the ability to run.
“It doesn’t even make sense for a past felony conviction that could be decades old to interfere with someone’s ability to run for a public office,” Silverstein said. “Not only does it violate the candidate’s rights, but the rights of all the voters that might want to choose that person as their representative.”READ MORE: Semi Strikes I-70 Bridge In Lakewood, Drives Off
According to a spokesman for the City of Aurora, the clerk’s office notified Bailey in early July that the city would not enforce the code. Council’s vote to change the code this week reinforced that, though Silverstein said Bailey’s candidacy could be affected by the rule still being in the city charter.
“We believe that it leaves our client vulnerable to a potential challenge by any registered voter in Aurora,” Silverstein said.
Ultimately, a judge could have the final say, and even set legal precedent for cities in the state that have similar rules on the books.
“There is a precedence that needs to be set across the nation to restore felons back into society,” Bailey said.
Bailey has even bigger plans than a victory in court. The advocate for police reform and friend of Elijah McClain’s family sees an opportunity to enact change.
While Tuesday was the deadline to turn in a petition, it also marked two years since Aurora officers stopped McClain and forcibly held him to the ground after someone complained to police that he looked “sketchy.” The 23 year old was also injected with the sedative Ketamine and later went into cardiac arrest. He died three days later.
“This better be the next step that I’m taking because all we’ve seen is complacency, all we have seen is no action,” Bailey said. “There will not be justice without stepping into the arena and challenging the ways that they criminalized Elijah McClain and made him a felon.”MORE NEWS: Colorado Army Veteran & Afghanistan Interpreter Will Reunite As Neighbors
The municipal election is Nov. 2.