A legal battle over voting rights has turned to a new crowdfunding-based model to pay for its upcoming court battles.
On Jan. 30, We the People Project launched a crowdfunding campaign on
the CrowdJustice platform to raise money to fund a legal fight to
bring presidential voting rights to citizens of U.S. territories. The
campaign's goal is to raise $10,000 by March 9.
The case is pending before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
is a crowdfunding platform built specifically for legal cases. It
gives litigants the tools to build a community around their case and
raise the financial and community support necessary to help get their
case through the court system.
platform was launched in 2015 in the United Kingdom and played a role in helping Brexit supporters win the right to vote on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union.
accepting cases from the U.S. on Jan. 30.
campaign to be accepted, the litigant must have lawyers ready to take on the case and willing to confirm that willingness with CrowdJustice, said Alexis Blane, global head of legal and
partnership services for CrowdJustice.
make sure the case is handled properly any money raised through the
platform goes straight to the lawyer and not the individuals who
launched it,” said Blane. “It's a little different for charities
who get the money directly because we assume that most donors are
interested in supporting the charity in the first place.”
biggest challenge for CrowdJustice is that many lawyers are
unfamiliar with the concept of using crowdfunding to pay legal fees.
“For a lot of lawyers, CrowdJustice is a new idea and it sounds
like there could be something scary about it,” said Blane. “But
because the campaign is donation-based, there's very little risk. The
individuals who give money to the campaign are not investors. They do
not have any say in how the case proceeds.”
helping to allay people's fears is a policy that requires that any
unspent funding not spent on legal costs be donated to charitable
organizations that provide legal services to other individuals who
cannot afford it, Blane said.
addition, the organization does provide some screening. While it might
not block a campaign to provide legal costs for controversial
political issues, it may decline to accept a case that could be
seen as damaging the local community.
“We do screen the campaigns but
we are not looking at the issues involved; we are looking at the
content,” said Blane.
Walzer, senior research scholar with the Center for Governmental
Studies at Northern Illinois University, researches new ways
crowdfunding has been used to support communities.
becoming a popular way for individuals to directly provide support
for causes they believe in,” Walzer said.
“By creating a crowdfunding platform, organizations can attract
investors and immediately start moving forward. However, funders have
to make sure they have access to as much information as possible.”
said he believes that crowdfunding will continue to
grow as an alternative way to provide funding for community-based
projects that might not be able to generate revenue on their own.
allows community-focused individuals to make relatively small
donations and ensure that causes they support are successful,” he said.