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American Bar Association’s Law Day 2014 focuses on the importance of the right to vote

American Bar Association’s Law Day 2014 focuses on the importance of the right to vote

By John Glynn

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2014 — As the nation approaches the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the focus of the American Bar Association’s Law Day events on May 1 will stress the importance of the right to vote in our democracy.

What is universal suffrage? What is the relationship between universal suffrage and democracy? Is it possible to have one without the other? Is universal suffrage truly achievable or an aspirational ideal? These questions and others will be the focus of the ABA’s Law Day event, the 12th Annual Leon Jaworski Public Program, from 5 to 7 p.m. May 1 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, in D.C.

The program is one of many events and activities planned throughout the nation to focus attention on the Law Day 2014 theme, “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.” The theme highlights the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the work that remains to protect that right for every American.

“The American Bar Association has identified a host of problems across the country that undermine the sacred right to vote — the most American right,” ABA President James R. Silkenat said. “This year, 50 years after passage of both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, we can recommit ourselves to democracy by exercising our franchise and by removing barriers that prevent our neighbors from legally casting their votes.”

“This year’s Law Day theme allows us to reflect upon the incredibly timely and important topics of voting rights and voter engagement,” National Law Day Chair Pauline Weaver said. “On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we still face many challenges in achieving our national goal of providing every citizen an equal opportunity to cast a ballot. We must continue to work together to eliminate the hurdles that discourage voter participation; our government ‘by the people’ depends upon it.” 

The American Bar Association has adopted policies that address voting issues and possible solutions for election delays.

This event is free and open to members of the press. For media credentialing, please contact Betsy Adeboyejo at Betsy.Adeboyejo@americanbar.org or 202-662-1039.

National Law Day highlights include:

Dialogue on VotingWednesday, April 30, 8 10 a.m.

Nearly 350 high school students from around the nation will discuss voting rights and voter engagement issues. They will probe such questions as: Should voting be required? How has voting in the United States changed over the past 50 years? What should voting in elections be like in the future? This event is sponsored by the ABA Division of Public Education in partnership with the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit organization that educates and inspires young people to become informed and engaged citizens.

Featured speakers: ABA President James R. Silkenat, ABA President-elect William Hubbard, National Law Day Chair Pauline Weaver and Kim Askew, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Public Education

Location: Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building, Sidney R. Yates Auditorium, 1849 C St. NW

Breakfast with High School Teachers Thursday, May 1, 8 – 9:30 a.m.

Teachers from around the nation will learn how to actively engage their students in the election process through Rock the Vote’s Democracy Class, a program that blends video, a classroom discussion and a mock election to teach students the skills they need to use the elections process and become active voters. In addition, the program will feature a clip from “Electoral Dysfunction,” an ABA Silver Gavel Award-winning documentary, and a toolkit for teaching about voting in the classroom. This event is conducted in cooperation with the Close Up Foundation.

Featured speakers: ABA President James R. Silkenat; Kim Askew, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Public Education; Bennett Singer, producer/director of “Electoral Dysfunction”; and Chrissy Faessen, vice president of communications and marketing for Rock the Vote

Location: Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th St. NW

National Roundtable on Voting Thursday, May 1, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Leaders from civil rights, legal and voting advocacy organizations will discuss what lawyers and other members of the legal community can do to address voting-related issues, the suggested election administration improvements outlined in the Presidential Commission on Election Administration report and the outcomes of the regional roundtables hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law, which addressed early voting, voter ID, election administration and voter registration, redistricting and the highest areas of priorities in election law for the organized bar. A recent report by the committee, “Election Delays in 2012,” cites reasons for the delays and provides ideas to alleviate them. ABA President James R. Silkenat will preside.

Location: National Press Club, First Amendment Lounge, 529 14th St. NW

The Leon Jaworski Public Program Thursday, May 1, 5 – 7 p.m.

Panelists will discuss “The Vote: When Does Suffrage Become Universal?” This event is sponsored by the ABA Division for Public Education in conjunction with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and is open to the public. ABA President James R. Silkenat will preside.

Moderator: John Milewski, director of digital programming at the Woodrow Wilson Center

Speakers: Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity; Aurelian Craiutu, professor of political science and director of the Tocqueville Program at Indiana University, Bloomington; Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor at The New Yorker and board member at FairVote; Claudio Lopez-Guerra, research professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics; Janai S. Nelson, professor of law and associate dean of faculty scholarship at St. John’s University School of Law

Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Flom Auditorium, 6th Floor, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

About Law Day     

Envisioned in 1957 by then-ABA President Charles S. Rhyne as a national day to recognize the country’s commitment to the rule of law, Law Day was established by President Dwight Eisenhower the following year. Congress issued a joint resolution in 1961 designating May 1 as the official Law Day. Many civic groups and bar associations celebrate with a month of programs, presentations and events. Visit the ABA’s Law Day website (LawDay.org) for information about Law Day programs throughout the country.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

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