Remarks by New York City Bar Association President Sheila S. Boston on American Bar Association Resolution #800 to Protect and Preserve the Right to Vote

New York City Bar Association President Sheila S. Boston, a delegate to the American Bar Association, delivered the following remarks at the ABA’s Midyear Meeting on February 14, 2022. The remarks to the ABA House of Delegates were in support of ABA Resolution 800, which calls on legislatures to “preserve and protect the right to vote in U.S. elections.” Following President Boston’s and others’ remarks, the resolution was adopted. Also adopted was Resolution 801, which advocates for election reform at the federal level.

Thank you, Chair Howard!

Peace and greetings to all, beloved ABA colleagues! My name is Sheila Boston; I am honored and blessed to be President of the New York City Bar Association, which I have nicknamed “The Bar of Hope,” and I am a Delegate to the American Bar Association. I speak today in support of Resolution 800 to preserve and protect the right to vote in U.S. elections. 

The City Bar has been focusing on this issue with great vigor and intensity, through multiple programs, and in an extensive report last September titled “The Consent of the Governed,” referencing, of course, the Declaration of Independence to underscore that the right to vote is the bedrock foundation of our democracy and the fundamental right that makes all our other rights possible. After all, the vote is how the consent of the governed is determined in the first place.

Because efforts to restrict or undermine access to the ballot or to interfere with the administration of elections are direct threats to the democratic process and the rule of law in our nation, I believe it is a misnomer when some call defending the right to vote “political” or “partisan.” How is it partisan to defend and unburden the right to vote and to make sure that our election administration processes remain nonpartisan and independent?

And then who will defend this fundamental right if not us, if not the lawyers? More specifically, if not bar associations, where members of the profession of all political leanings come together to tackle the issues of the day, even if that means sometimes engaging in heated – but always civil – debates? Despite our differences, we are all officers of the courts and are pledged to respect and enforce the rule of law in accordance with the Constitutions of our nation and our respective states. Voting rights should be one issue where the legal profession can come together and speak with one voice.

That is why the New York City Bar has posted a lawyer’s pledge on voting and the rule of law on our home page. It’s already been signed by a thousand lawyers, and hopefully now that all of you are aware of it, many more will sign on. My signature is the first one, and I am urging all of you to join me: Please sign it and spread the word. Because we lawyers need to lead on this, not follow.

I have read Resolution 800. I wholeheartedly endorse it. It says that the ABA will not stand silently by while unreasonable and burdensome obstacles to voting are erected throughout the nation, and while nonpartisan election officials are harassed and undermined. I am struck by the similarities to the City Bar’s pledge, which, among other things, says that all who are eligible should be encouraged and able to vote in free and fair elections, and that elections should be administered in a nonpartisan manner before, during and after the voting. My beloved colleagues, this should not be controversial.

The threats to the right to vote, and to the rule of law, and to our very democracy are plain to see and momentously grave. We are at a crossroads – a time in history when the voice of the American Bar Association must be heard. Let no one in the future look back and ask, “Where were the lawyers?” I want history to reflect well on us, and I hope you do too. I thus urge the legal community to come together and answer that call today. Please vote in favor of Resolution 800.

I thank you so much, and I yield the remainder of any of my time back to attorney Lucy Thomson or others speaking in favor of Resolution 800.