The idea that individuals with a felony conviction should be barred from voting for at least some period of time is widely accepted across the United States. But when you consider that current laws arose out of explicit racial animus following the Civil War and the end of slavery; when you look at the disproportionate effect the practice has had on people of color; and when you weigh the arguments in favor of disenfranchising millions of Americans – it becomes apparent that states should revisit this issue as part of broader criminal justice reform efforts and broader calls to address systemic racism.

Currently, over five million Americans who otherwise qualify to vote cannot do so as the result of a felony conviction.

Proskauer’s participation in Election Protection, through hosting a call center with Firm, client and alumni volunteers across the United States, provides an invaluable service to individual voters ensuring they have an equal opportunity to cast their ballot.  This volunteer experience also provides great insight into the current condition of democracy in America.  It lays bare some fundamental weaknesses in the US electoral systems of voting, but also suggests a potential roadmap for reform.

One thing becomes clear to anyone who takes part in this effort – the US does not have a system of voting but rather has many systems, each controlled on the local level.  From registering to vote to voting itself, including voter ID laws and the ability to vote by mail, elections vary widely from state to state.

Rules change as soon as one crosses state lines and even county lines in some instances, causing widespread voter confusion. The essential and what should be fairly straightforward act of voting in the US has become too complicated.

For the past 14 years, Proskauer has partnered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in its Election Protection initiative, a nonpartisan project mobilizing law firms, law schools, in-house counsel, and other members of the legal community to ensure every vote is counted fairly and equally.  Proskauer will again host a national call center to provide comprehensive voting information, as well as monitor election-related issues.

Countdown to Election Day: Making Your Voting Plan

In the midst of a pandemic and with less than a month until Election Day, every American must have a plan to ensure their vote is cast.  If you choose to vote in person, locate your local polling place online or through the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, arrange for transportation, and no matter how long the wait may be: stay in line.  Make sure you know your polling place’s hours, and bring the documentation your state requires.  Review your employer’s policies regarding taking time off to vote, and arrange for childcare, if necessary.

Election Protection is a nationwide nonpartisan coalition, spearheaded by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, working to ensure that every voter is able to exercise their right to vote. Election Protection runs a national call center where any voter in the United States can dial (866) OUR-VOTE to immediately be connected with a trained volunteer who can answer anything from questions about where to vote and what ID voters need to bring to the polls to how to address broken machines, voter intimidation or other issues arising at a voting location.

Since 2006 Proskauer has been participating in Election Protection running call centers and providing hundreds of volunteer lawyers from senior partners to first-year associates, and even in-house counsel from clients. Proskauer associates Jason Madden and Seth Fiur have been spearheading the Firm’s recent Election Protection efforts and we caught up with them recently to learn more about how the Firm is preparing to support Election Protection leading up to and including Election Day this November:

Proskauer honored its lawyers and staff who have made significant contributions to the Firm’s pro bono and corporate social responsibility programs this year at its 11th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony on January 22. The following is a list of recipients alphabetically by project.

Protecting Voting Rights

These attorneys and paralegals ensured that a team of more than 150 volunteers from Proskauer and partnering corporate clients would be ready and able to answer nearly 2,000 calls over two days from voters in five states during the 2018 mid-term elections. This effort was part of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law non-partisan “Election Protection” hotline program, which strives to ensure that all U.S. citizens can exercise their right to vote.