New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. has formed a special committee to recommend possible changes in state law that could foster greater voter participation.

"Voting is a fundamental right. Yet here in New York State, we continue to have one of the lowest rates of voter participation in the nation," said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York City). "We must find ways to remove barriers to registration and voting while maintaining the integrity of the process. Measures that increase participation could go a long way toward enhancing civic engagement and our democracy."

The Special Committee on Voter Participation is chaired by former Assistant U.S. Attorney General and state Senator John R. Dunne of Albany (Whiteman Osterman & Hanna) and Daniel F. Kolb of New York City (Davis Polk & Wardwell).

The rate of voter participation in New York is frequently ranked among the lowest in the nation. Only 36.3 percent of New Yorkers eligible to vote in the 2000 election cast ballots, according to an analysis by the United States Elections Project at George Mason University.

The State Bar Association special committee will examine possible changes in the way New York registers voters and conducts elections, such as: automatic voter registration and modernization of the registration process; extended cut-off dates for advance registration; increased penalties for voter intimidation and deceptive election practices; early voting (allowing voting in designated poll locations prior to Election Day); and no-fault absentee balloting. The committee has two subcommittees, one focusing on the registration process, the other on the voting process.

In its report, the special committee may recommend changes that could enhance civic participation in New York State. It expects to submit its report to the State Bar's Executive Committee and House of Delegates for approval in January 2013.

The New York State Bar Association, with 77,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.


Contact: Mark Mahoney
Associate Director, Media Services