An Aurora activist who wants to run for city council sued the city Thursday over a law that bans former felons from holding public office.

Candice Bailey, 43, wants to declare her candidacy for Aurora City Council but is not eligible to run because she was convicted in 1999 of second-degree assault. She is challenging the city’s rule by suing in U.S. District Court with the help of the ACLU of Colorado.

“The Aurora laws we challenge today represent arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination, particularly against people of color everywhere,” Mark Silverstein, the ACLU’s legal director, said. “These provisions also violate the rights of Aurora residents, who should be free to choose the candidates they believe will be their best representatives. These biased barriers deprive the voters of that choice.”

The Aurora law prohibiting former felons from holding elected office is established in the city’s charter and voters would have to approve a ballot referendum for it to change, Silverstein said. Because Bailey must file her application to run for office by August, time is of the essence, he said. The lawsuit asks for an expedited decision.

Ryan Luby, an Aurora spokesperson, declined in an email to comment on the lawsuit. He said the law was included in the city charter after voters approved it in 1961. Until voters approve a change, city officials must follow the law, the email said.

The lawsuit argues that the Colorado Constitution guarantees that citizens’ rights, including the ability to run for public office, are restored after they serve their prison sentences.

Pueblo and Fort Collins have similar rules banning anyone convicted of a prior felony from serving on city council. Denver does not.

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