Press Releases

Voting Rights Act and Anti-Voter Suppression Efforts

Citing “ongoing efforts by some state legislatures to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the fear that state legislatures are already attempting to influence the outcome of the 2024 election by enacting voter suppressive state laws,” the New York City Bar Association is calling for prompt and effective Congressional action – including enactment of both the 2021 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act – as well as “a broader response from the legal profession as a whole.”

In a 50-page report released today – “The Consent of the Governed: Enforcing Citizens’ Right to Vote”– the City Bar summarizes “the wave of actions in state legislatures, executive chambers and even courts that threaten democracy and the rule of law in our country.” The report then discusses the “For the People Act” (HR1/S1) and the “2021 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” (HR 4), aimed at prohibiting and, where necessary, remedying state actions that have the intention or the effect of curtailing the voting rights of any group of citizens. (A modified version of the For the People Act, known as the “Freedom to Vote Act,” was introduced in the Senate on September 14, 2021). The report then addresses the importance of Senate action to reduce the paralyzing effect of its current filibuster rules “so that these, and other, issues of supreme importance to our nation can be debated and acted upon in accordance with fair-minded and reasonable democratic procedures.” Finally, the report turns to the role of lawyers, bar associations and law schools throughout our country “in resisting the erosion of democracy and rebuilding a sense of public trust in the impartiality of our electoral process.”

“Among the most insidious of the raft of voting suppressive laws which have been enacted since November 2020 are those which permit state legislatures to override the handling of election results by the public officials designated in their state to do so, seemingly on a totally partisan basis,” states the report, adding that so far, there is no indication that Congress is working to address these post-election administrative provisions. “In our judgment, these new laws and legislative proposals collectively constitute a clear and present threat to our democracy, striking at the very heart of our nation’s Constitutional government and treating the ‘consent of the governed’ as an obstacle to be circumvented, overridden or ignored.” The City Bar adds that “[t]he threats to our nation’s democratic institutions by the legislative actions described above are serious and should not be disregarded or treated as conventional political combat,” and “[T]his is not a matter that can be left for a future Congress to address.”

The report, which was drafted by the City Bar’s Task Force on the Rule of Law and its Election Law Committee, also urges “our colleagues in the legal profession to speak and act with the urgency that the current threats require, whether through their firms and corporate law departments or through their state and local bar associations, to make clear to the public that voting rights are not ‘political’ issues but the bedrock foundation of our democracy and need to be respected regardless of party preferences or allegiance. We call too on the leaders of our preeminent law schools to raise their voice publicly in support of the rule of law and the need for all elected officials to work to strengthen and broaden, rather than dilute, democratic participation in our nation’s electoral process. Our nation’s elected officials, our courts and the American public deserve no less from our profession.”

Read the report here: