For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 23, 2016
Contact: (866) NYDLC-01; info@NYDLC.org
During the Shelby County Week of Action, the New York Democratic Lawyers Council (NYDLC) joins civil rights advocates from across the country to call upon Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA), in order to ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their voting rights without discrimination or difficulty.
Saturday, June 25th marks three years since the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder decision, gutted key provisions of the VRA, rendering some of its core protections inoperative. In doing so, SCOTUS invalidated the coverage formula that required certain state and local governments with a history of discrimination to obtain federal approval before changes to voting laws could take effect.
As a result, previously active voters have been disenfranchised by restrictive new laws enacted in 17 states, while voting strength of people of color and language minorities has been diluted. Many jurisdictions have taken steps to make it harder to register or cast a ballot, have enacted strict voter ID requirements that disproportionately impact minorities and lower-income voters, and have decreased the time allotted to vote or drastically reduced the number of poll sites.
By refusing to restore the VRA, the GOP-controlled Congress has been complicit in the largest rollback of voting rights protections in 50 years. Abdicating their responsibility to address this matter ahead of the 2016 Presidential election, Republican leadership in Congress has refused to consider two bills with bipartisan support that would breathe new life into the VRA, and prevent discriminatory election law changes for suppressing the fundamental rights of eligible Americans.
NYDLC Co-Chair John Nonna said, "The Supreme Court's decision in Shelby opened the floodgates to voter suppression law in formerly covered jurisdictions. We must fight to restore [Federal] pre-clearance under criteria that would apply to all states seeking to suppress the vote through harsh legislation."
NYDLC Co-Chair Carol Schrager said, "The world looks to America to lead on expanding Democracy and protecting civil rights. Our election laws and processes need to make it easier for eligible voters to make their voices heard, not harder. VRA protections are critical toward this end."
NYDLC Executive Director Jarret Berg said, "Apart from the sorely needed federal oversight safeguard the VRA provides, the Act represents the culmination of more than a century of progress made against systemic racial discrimination and the strengthening of individual civil rights. Congress needs to come together to advance federal legislation to protect voting rights in the states and fix what the conservative wing of the Supreme Court carelessly broke."
Theo Harris, Co-Chair of NYDLC’s Minority Voting Rights Committee explained, “It is with great trepidation that we enter the summer stretch of the first presidential election in 50 years to be conducted without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act in effect. To compensate for the loss of this critical tool, we must come together and organize our communities to protect the vote for all Americans.”
The New York Democratic Lawyers Council (NYDLC) is a coalition of attorneys, law students, and voting rights advocates who share the common goal of protecting each citizen’s right to vote. NYDLC attorneys dedicate their expertise to help ensure that all eligible persons can register to vote easily; all registered voters are able to vote conveniently, fairly, and without intimidation; and, that all votes are counted accurately by transparent and reliable voting systems.
Read more (http://bit.ly/28KN0Ht) about the US Supreme Court’s decision and its devastating impact.
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For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Contact: (866) NYDLC-01; info@NYDLC.org
NYDLC Executive Director Jarret Berg and Elizabeth Robins, President of the Cardozo Law School Democrats (CLD) presented joint testimony yesterday to the NYC Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC) about much-needed reforms to reduce barriers to voter participation. The Committee sought input on voter-related issues arising out of the April 19th New York Presidential Primary, as well as the efforts of the NYC Votes Albany Voter Day and #VoteBetterNY coalition's push for modernization (Read the full NYDLC-CLD testimony by clicking here).
NYDLC and CLD proposed several commonsense pro-voter reforms that, if enacted, would reduce barriers to participation so that all eligible New Yorkers can exercise their right to vote. “New York’s outdated registration and administration systems need to be redesigned for the modern age. As one state after another embraces modernization best-practices, New York is being left in the dust and our citizens are paying the price” said NYDLC Executive Director Jarret Berg, in regard to Tuesday's hearing.
Reform proposals included online voter registration, registration status tracking for electronic and paper systems, automatic voter registration, registration portability, early voting, a registration "Golden week" to cure registration defects, and no-fault absentee (universal vote-by-mail) voting. "New York law should provide a convenient voter registration process with safeguards to protect against errors and omissions, so that no student who registers to vote is disenfranchised", said CLD President Elizabeth Robins after the hearing.
The NYC Campaign Finance Board’s VAAC holds annual hearings to give attention to challenges that New Yorkers experience at the polls. This year, attendees raised questions about New York's closed primary system and the highly-publicized reports of mass purges to the voter rolls in Brooklyn and other parts of the city. “Administrators and policymakers of all stripes need to internalize the ethos that voting is a core civil right. Due process is a safeguard, not an inconvenience,” Berg said.
The hearing also highlighted the experiences of those who advocated for election reform in Albany during Voter Day, an event NYDLC promoted and publicized widely across its network, and the success of pro-voter initiatives like Student Voter Registration Day and social media campaigns like #VoteBetterNY.
NYDLC and CLD also offered feedback on the work of NYC Votes, as detailed in the 2015-2016 Voter Assistance Annual Report. Testimony included commentary on a “CFB case study” detailed in the report that recommended changes to the Board of Elections’ existing practice of purging so-called inactive voters, which may be partly to blame for mass purges that occurred prior to the New York Presidential Primary. Read the full NYDLC-CLD testimony by clicking here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2016
Contact: Jarret Berg, Esq., 866-693-5201
NYDLC ENDORSES 90 FOR 90, A VIRGINIA VOTER REGISTRATION PROJECT IN RECOGNITION OF HON. WILLIAM “FERGIE” REID
NYDLC is proud to announce its endorsement of 90 for 90, an admirable and civic-minded Virginia voter registration and education project that aligns with NYDLC’s efforts to make voter registration easy and convenient for eligible voters, and to reduce the hurdle that the registration process poses to participation in elections across the United States.
The 90 for 90 project honors the 90th birthday of William Ferguson (“Fergie”) Reid, a Virginia doctor and civil rights activist who has advocated for voting rights since the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. Fergie formed the Richmond Crusade for Voters in 1956, where he worked to register and mobilize eligible black voters in a time and place when doing so was especially dangerous. In 1968, Fergie became the first black member of the Virginia General assembly where he served three terms. Fergie continues his voting rights advocacy to this day.
90 for 90 set an ambitious 2015-2016 goal of 250,000 new Virginia registrants by encouraging advocates to register 90 people per precinct. To date, 90 for 90 boasts that Virginia has registered over 90% of the persons needed to meet this target.
Voter ID and other newly enacted restrictive laws are challenging Democrats to do what it takes to help people comply with often difficult requirements. NYDLC is ready to take on this this challenge and will continue to support 90 for 90 and other heroic programs in New York and throughout the country.
Discussing his career standing up for the civil rights of minorities Hon. William Fergie Reid has said: “The voters have to learn that they are in charge. . . . You have to do it with votes and the voters are the people and we have to motivate the people because they are the power but they don't realize that the power exists within them. ”
“Voter registration is an obstacle to participation in our democracy, and the resulting low turnout threatens the ability of our democracy to be responsive to the needs of ‘we the people’, Jarret Berg, Executive Director of the NYDLC said. "Initiatives like the 90 for 90 project, and the allies and organizations that are working tirelessly to make it successful, strengthen our society. Each newly registered voter is newly empowered to be the change.”
Reflecting on Fergie's career in service to the community Francesca Leigh-Davis, Co-Chair of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, Registration Committee has said: “We need to get back to those old grassroots of organizing, knocking on doors, getting our neighbors to the polls, as well as voicing our opinions and voicing our civil rights. . . . You have to vote, you need to be registered, and you need to know what you are voting for.”
Discussing the importance of the franchise, Hazel Reid O'Leary, former United States Secretary of Energy (1993-1997) has said: “The vote is our most mighty tool. Please use it, in memory of those who were denied the vote.”
In honor of National Voter Registration Day on September 22nd, as proclaimed by President Obama, we compiled a quick guide to assist you with creating voter registration/education initiatives. Please click below to find Voter Registration resources and more info on National Voter Registration Day!Read more
On Thursday, March 26th, members of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council had the pleasure of speaking with two legislators, both of whom share the Council’s commitment to protecting and expanding the right to vote.
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos explained the most important voting rights issues facing New York today, and about how NYDLC members can be active in addressing those issues.Read more
In a newly released report "Bringing Early Vote to the State of New York" NYDLC's Legislative Affairs Committee endorses a sweeping overhaul to the leading NYS Early Vote legislative proposal that incorporates best practices from systems in place across the country and suggestions from good government advocates.
The proposal better reflect the differing needs of New York's extremely diverse 62 counties, embracing the mantra that "one size does not fit all counties" and preserving local flexibility.Read more