Happy Law Day!
Each year, May 1st is set aside as a national day to celebrate the rule of law, while recognizing the role that our laws, the courts, and the legal processes play in the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. The rule of law is not only fundamental to the liberties we enjoy as a society, but also to the foundations of our democracy. Today, we take a moment to reflect upon these freedoms and appreciate our legal system’s role in it.
Each year, the American Bar Association chooses a theme for Law Day. This year’s theme is “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100.” As we celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment, affording women the right to vote and we look ahead to the 2020 Presidential Election, this November, this theme could not be more fitting.
The 19th Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, ratified on August 18, 1920, and proclaimed into law as a part of the Constitution of the United States on August 26, 2020, granting all American women the right to vote. From the founding of the country, women had been denied the right to vote. Known as the suffrage movement, women began fighting for this to change in the early 19th century. However, their cause was not taken seriously until the onset of World War I. During the first world war, women were engaged in various capacities to keep the country running at home as well as on the battlefield. Their contributions broke down any remaining opposition to their cause and they were finally successful at earning their much deserved equality.
The women’s suffrage movement fought for, and won, the right to vote, forever changing the American society by expanding representative democracy to all women and allowing their voices to be heard.
Today, as we reflect upon the hard battle fought by women to earn the right to vote, we must also look ahead to the Presidential election this November, perhaps still in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has shut down much of American society; social distancing measures keep most men and women at home; and mail-in voting is not available or encouraged in all areas of the country. How will this health crisis and the accompanying social distancing measures impact our right to vote? Will our voices be heard on this incredibly important election day?
The right to vote is a fundamental principle of our American democracy. History teaches us how hard some have fought to earn this right and how vital it is for our democracy to be representative of our society as a whole. Women and men from all facets of our country need to exercise their right to vote - all voices need to be heard.
This year, due to the COVID-19 crisis and lack of mail-in voting initiatives, our right to vote may be tested; tested more than ever before. In honor of the suffrage movement, in honor of the women who fought for us to have the right to vote, we must do everything possible to make sure we cast a ballot this November. It may not be easy; it may be difficult; but perhaps it has never been as important to our democracy as it is this year.
This Law Day, let us reflect upon the role the legal system plays in our democratic society and let us also remember the hard-fought battle that ultimately earned women the fundamental right to vote. And, on Election Day this November, let us take every necessary step to ensure that our ballots are cast in the Presidential Election and our voices are heard.
By Marcia Payton, Esq. Marcia is a partner at Riebling & Payton, PLLC and can be contacted at www.rieblingpaytonlaw.com or (914) 712-6878.