For the 8th election cycle in a row, Proskauer hosted an Election Protection call center on November 7th and 8th in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which spearheads a national, nonpartisan effort that provides comprehensive information and assistance to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to vote. This year, Proskauer answered calls from Ohio. Our volunteers answered questions about a wide variety of issues such as polling locations and voter identification requirements, while also compiling reports of long lines, voter intimidation and electioneering activities in and around polling sites and relaying that information to the on-the-ground Lawyers’ Committee team stationed throughout Ohio.
In 2018, Proskauer highlighted the importance of a New York law that gives those with criminal convictions an opportunity to build a better life. New York Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59 (“CPL 160.59”) allows persons convicted of certain crimes to apply for their criminal record to be sealed upon meeting two requirements: (1) at least ten years have passed since their release from prison; and (2) a record of two or fewer criminal convictions only one of which can be a felony. Once sealed, these records are inaccessible to the public and through routine background checks, such as those used by landlords and employers. Though CPL 160.59 has provided some with a needed second chance, it has excluded far too many people.
Many other states have implemented their own laws permitting criminal records to be sealed — in 2019 alone, 31 states and D.C. enacted bills creating, expanding, or streamlining conviction record sealing, set-asides, or expungement. New York was one of those states, reforming the system by automatically sealing drug convictions for now decriminalized offenses, as well as sealing certain pending matters where there has been no activity in the past five years. Nevertheless, New York did not take the opportunity to expand the scope of CPL 160.59 and thus it remains severely underused compared to original estimates.