2023 is neither a presidential nor mid-term election year but nevertheless there are extensive efforts underway across the country to combat a host of recent measures meant to restrict the right to vote. The Bloomberg and Proskauer communities recently came together at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York for a discussion highlighting those efforts, addressing the health of our democracy, and presenting a call to action for the hundreds who attended this lunchtime event.

Moderated by Bloomberg reporter Greg Farrell, the speakers included Casey Smith, an Equal Justice Works Fellow funded by Bloomberg and Proskauer who works for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and Godfre Blackman, a Proskauer associate who recently served as the firm’s NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Fellow, which enabled him to work directly with the LDF on various voting rights issues.

Bloomberg and Proskauer are sponsoring Equal Justice Works Fellow Casey Smith, who will work at the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. Casey, a recent graduate of Yale Law School, will contribute to the defense of individuals unjustly prosecuted for voting. Casey also will help to develop impact litigation that challenges statutes imposing harsh penalties upon people who vote without realizing they are ineligible to do so.

In this interview, Casey discusses her important work.

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. In conversation with Damon Hewitt, Executive Vice President, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Proskauer pro bono partner Bill Silverman says, “Supporting impactful and important programs like Election Protection helps people who might otherwise be disenfranchised have their voices heard, and their votes counted.” Watch the video below where we had the chance to connect with Bill and Damon on this unprecedented election and our joined efforts to amplify voices and voters this season:

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.