Voting rights experts offer tips to protect the 2024 vote

Panelists in the Eighth Annual State of Voting Rights webinar agreed that key threats to the democratic system include misinformation and disinformation, election subversion, state legislation that seeks to suppress the vote, election sabotage and failure to have a free and fair election.

“The rules of the game are being upended,” said Abha Khanna, partner at Elias Law Group in Washington, D.C. “We’ve always had disagreements on what the law requires, but we’ve had some fundamental agreements on the structure.”
Khanna said what exists today is “an element that basically says we no longer have to follow the structures and the rules that are in place. We get to redesign them, or we get to just break them.

She said people need to be “very vigilant” about holding each other accountable, “to at least be playing by the same rule book of our fundamental democratic structures, without which the substance of the debate is almost irrelevant if the debate is not even on knowable and a fair and a predictable playing field.”

Amir Badat, manager of the Voting Rights Defender and Prepared to Vote Projects (VRD/PTV) and voting special counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund agreed, adding that the threats we see today are a response or a backlash to minority voters exercising their political power. He said it’s similar to what we’re seeing in the movement against affirmative action and abortion. “It’s all … part of the same phenomenon here but it’s incredibly important for us all to be … working together and moving kind of in lockstep on all of these issues at the same,” Badat said.

Khyla D. Craine, deputy legal director for the Michigan Department of State, said she sees misinformation and disinformation as a serious threat. She said the use of artificial intelligence in elections is a concern and will make it difficult to know whether what someone is saying is accurate. “Lies are proliferating around the country and around the globe so fast that those of us who have the truth to tell are sometimes drowned out,” Craine said.

Moderator Jason A. Abel, partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington, D.C., and co-chair of the Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Committee of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, said some ways lawyers and law firms can help protect the vote include law firms partnering with nonprofit organizations and private plaintiffs in litigation matters.

Badat said the NAACP welcomes pro bono assistance and he encouraged lawyers to get involved in poll or remote monitoring.

“People can do this from the comfort of their own home. Just log on and you’re able to monitor mis- and disinformation that’s going on over social media or traditional media. It’s really important work for us to be able to identify that and respond to it in a timely way.

Craine added that an area that will require more attention is citizens who are returning to the community from incarceration. She said it’s important they understand how they can register and vote as the laws differ for each state.

“A lot of people who have experienced incarceration think (the laws are) all the same,” Craine said.

Craine said it’s important that incarcerated citizens and those returning from incarceration understand their rights in their state.

“Being able to amplify that voice is crucial,” she said.

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