DENVER, Aug. 9, 2023 – American Bar Association President Mary L. Smith announced the creation of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy and its Advisory Commission to look at ways to improve public trust in our election system.
The task force is co-chaired by former Judge J. Michael Luttig, who served on the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit from 1991 to 2006, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson (2013-2017). The members of the task force include thought leaders, lawyers, former elected officials and business leaders, among others, who represent a bipartisan group of recognized national leaders with expertise in American government, democracy and the rule of law.
The focus of the task force will be in three areas:
- Depoliticizing the administration of elections
- Educating the public on the principles of our democracy and driving ownership of those principles into the American culture
- Identifying and advancing improvements and innovations in our systems of elections that will address the root causes of the current politicization and lack of trust in our elections and in our democracy.
To accomplish its mission, the task force will host listening tours and public conversations, as well as one-on-one and smaller discussions, with a broad spectrum of Americans to hear their concerns, experiences and suggestions for restoring and preserving our democracy.
“Our democracy is in peril,” Smith said. “Attempts to overturn election results, the politicization of election processes, and threats to election administrators and election officials have shown the necessity for the bar, the business community and all Americans to act to fortify our democracy. The nation’s more than 1.3 million attorneys represented by the ABA have a special obligation and responsibility to step up and speak out in defense and support of our imperiled democracy.”
Former ABA President, R. William “Bill” Ide, will serve as vice chair of the task force. The ABA House of Delegates passed a policy resolution (Resolution 500) at their 2023 Annual Meeting urging the adoption of laws and policies protecting the safety of all election workers.
“At our core, lawyers have a special responsibility to ensure an enduring democracy that protects the rule of law. We do not have the luxury to stay on the sidelines to see what happens when the foundations of our democracy are under attack. We have seen enough. We have a duty to act.” Smith said. “I’m delighted and honored to announce that Judge Michael Luttig and Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson will co-chair the task force. I cannot think of two individuals better suited to lead this critical work, given their deep commitment to our nation through years of public service and courage in standing up for our democratic values both in the United States and around the world.”
- In a recent Pew study, 51% of Americans said they are dissatisfied with how democracy is working and 46% said they are open to other forms of government, including rule by a strong leader.
- Less than one-third of millennials consider it essential to live in a democracy.
- According to a 2022 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, just 25% of U.S. adults can name only one of the three branches of government and more than 20% cannot name any branch of government.
- The U.S was recently ranked the 36th most democratic nation in the world by Universitat Wurzberg’s Democracy Matrix.
“Our country, our institutions of government and governance, the institutions of our democracy and our institutions of law and law enforcement are under vicious, unsustainable and unendurable attack,” said Luttig. “I am honored to be invited by ABA President Mary Smith to co-chair this distinguished Task Force for American Democracy with Secretary Johnson in this vital effort for our country.”
“I've had the privilege to serve the nation in various capacities,” said Johnson. “Co-chairing this task force with Judge Luttig may be my greatest service, as the continued viability of our democracy is at the root of all else in government.”
The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers 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.