“American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters” was the theme of this year’s Law Day USA, a May 1 celebration initiated by the ABA that has grown to include weeks of events conducted by bar associations, courts, schools and other organizations throughout the country.
In his Law Day proclamation, President Obama recognized the individuals who fought in the past for the right to vote, pointing out that over the centuries the country has made legal changes that eliminated formal voting restrictions based on wealth, race, and sex and also have extended the right to vote to younger adults. He said, however, that “despite this hard-fought progress, barriers to voting still exist and the right to vote faces a new wave of threat.”
“As we reflect on the trials and triumphs of generations past, we must rededicate ourselves to preserving those victories in our time,” Obama said. He urged state and local election officials to implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration and advocated that Congress update the Voting Rights Act.
President Eisenhower issued the first Law Day proclamation in 1958 after then ABA President Charles S. Rhyne envisioned Law Day as a day to celebrate the rule of law. This year, ABA leaders participated in numerous events, including a dialogue on voting with 350 high school students, a breakfast with high school teachers, a national roundtable on voting, and the annual Leon Jaworski Public Program featuring a panel discussing “The Vote: When Does Suffrage Become Universal?”
“The ABA 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, on the eve of the 50th anniversaries of passage of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he stated that “we can recommit ourselves to democracy by exercising our franchise and by removing barriers that prevent our neighbors from legally casting their vote.”