ABA vows to fight challenges to free and fair elections
ABA vows to fight challenges to free and fair elections
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The ABA House of Delegates on Monday passed two late-filed resolutions addressing efforts to limit voting after the 2020 presidential election.
Resolution 800 Calls on lawmakers to “uphold and protect the right to vote in US elections.” It also opposes all laws and regulations that suppress voting rights by:
• Allowing government agencies to decertify election results.
• Allow state legislatures to remove election officials from office or assume their powers to conduct elections.
• Conducting voter wipes not authorized by the National Voter Registration Act.
• Creating voting barriers through new or expanded voter identification requirements.
• Restriction on voting by restricting voting by mail or absentee voting.
• Adopting restrictive voting rules, removing polling stations or reducing the number of lockers that collect votes to limit in-person voting.
• Allowing harassment of poll officials.
“Resolution 800 addresses a critical issue in our country,” said Lucy Thomson, a representative of the District of Columbia Bar Association in the House of Delegates, who introduced the measure. “And it’s an issue that has been important to the ABA for over 30 years – ensuring free and fair elections and protecting democracy. This problem is even more critical now that state laws are undermining Americans’ right to vote.”
More than a third of all restrictive electoral laws from the last decade were passed in 2021 alone, the says report accompanying the decision. According to the Brennan Center for Justice cited in the report, between January 1, 2021 and December 7, at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting voting access.
In all, legislators in 49 states introduced more than 440 bills during their 2021 legislative sessions that contained voting-restriction provisions.
Thomson told the House of Representatives that these laws will fundamentally change the way elections are conducted, restricting voting rights and disenfranchising a significant number of voters. She also stressed the importance of taking immediate action to protect voting rights as more than 30 primary elections would be held nationwide by August.
“Time is of the essence,” said Thomson, who is also a former chair of the Science and Technology Law Division. “Democracy is burning and it is very important that the ABA has the policies it needs to be able to speak out on these issues.”
Former ABA President Dennis Archer; Mark Schickman, Representative of the Civil Rights and Social Justice Section in the House of Representatives; and Sheila Boston, a New York City Bar Association delegate to the House of Delegates, also supported the resolution.
“Since efforts to restrict or undermine access to ballots or to interfere with the conduct of elections pose a direct threat to the democratic process and the rule of law in our country, I believe it is a misnomer for some to defend the right to vote.” as political or partisan,” said Boston, president of the New York City Bar. “How is it partisan to defend and exonerate the right to vote and ensure our election administration procedures remain non-partisan and independent?
“And who will then defend this fundamental right if not we? If not the lawyers? More specifically, if not bar associations?”
ABA President Reginald Turner stressed the ABA’s support for the right to vote in his earlier speech to the House of Representatives, saying: “We reject all obstacles to fair and open elections and all subversion of the electoral process.”
Follow ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting here.
The resolution was co-sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section, the Section of Science & Technology Law, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and the Cybersecurity Legal Task Force.
ABA House urges Congress to change 19th-century electoral law
The Chamber of Deputies also agreed Resolution 801campaigning for electoral reform at the federal level.
The resolution calls for Congress to amend the Electoral Count Act, a law passed in 1887 that governs how electoral votes are counted after a presidential election and what happens if the results are contested. The resolution contains three proposals for changes to the ECA:
• The Vice President or other Chairperson should have only a ministerial role at the Joint Congress Session called to count and certify the electoral votes.
• Objections to a state vote count or voter count should come only from at least one-third of the Senate and House of Representatives
• These objections should only be upheld with a majority vote of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Lawmakers began considering changes to the ECA after supporters of then-President Donald Trump attacked the US Capitol during the electoral college vote count to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, narrated CNN In early February that a bipartisan group was gaining momentum in its reform negotiations.
“When a mob attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, it attacked more than the Capitol,” said Estelle Rogers, chair of the Standing Committee on Electoral Law, introducing the resolution. “She has attacked our democratic system of government and the rule of law. You were probably as amazed as I was at the different versions of January 6 that have emerged, largely along partisan lines.”
She told the House of Representatives that lawmakers intend to respond to the ECA soon and that it was imperative that the ABA be involved in the process.
“As this is a rare bipartisan effort to legislate on an issue so important, the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democracy, it calls out to the American Bar Association to lend its voice,” Rogers said. “Because it’s probably the only election-related law that’s going to be passed this year, it’s even more important.”
Several others, including Stephen Saltzburg, a representative of the Criminal Justice Division in the House of Representatives, supported the resolution.
Saltzburg urged his colleagues to vote in favor of the resolution, claiming that its provisions were simple and straightforward.
“Each of these recommendations has broad support, bipartisan support,” he said. “The only voice we want to hear is that of the ABA. It would be embarrassing if the American Bar Association didn’t participate during the debate.”
Resolution 801, co-sponsored by the Standing Committee on Electoral Law, the Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Civil Rights and Social Justice, also calls for Congress to make changes to the law that “generally clarify and modernize its language and structure.”
A motion has been made to postpone both resolutions indefinitely as they were tabled the weekend before the delegates’ assembly. These requests were rejected.