Skip to main content

See also:

PA bar association uses law day to teach students about voting rights

One of the locations students saw on law day
One of the locations students saw on law day
Jessica Hathaway

Sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA), Law Day was celebrated on May 1, 2014 where the focus was placed on educating elementary and secondary school students about the importance of voting rights. First established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Law Day was envisioned as a day to honor the liberty, justice, and equality which are all rights granted to every citizen in the United States. A joint resolution by Congress designated Law Day as being celebrated each year on the first day in the month of May. In Pennsylvania, 2014 marks the 14th year that the PA Bar Association sponsored activities that can be coordinated between schools, attorneys, and the courts to educate youth about how government and law work in relation to freedom and justice. The theme of Law Day 2014 was titled "American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters" highlighting barriers to voting and voter suppression for middle and high school students. Learning about the history of how laws were enacted to deny the right to vote to individuals because of their race, gender, age, and other criteria along with learning about voter ID laws in Pennsylvania was especially timely following an announcement that the Commonwealth Court will not reconsider their decision in the voter ID outcome. Considered one of the strictest laws in the country and also the most controversial, Pennsylvania law was changed to require citizens to show proof of their identity to vote at the polls. Challenged in court almost as soon as it was passed, the law was never implemented although it created a lot of confusion at last year's general election for many voters who were unaware they did not need to show photo ID to vote.

There was little media fanfare in Pennsylvania with few reports about Law Day events in Central Pennsylvania although it was announced that Pedro Cortes, former PA Secretary of the Department of State, spoke at a luncheon about why every vote counts. Most other Law Day events occurred at the local level with county bar associations collaborating with the school districts to provided activities and training for their students. In Franklin County PA, the bar association celebrated Law Day on Friday, May 2 and hosted events for youth at the Franklin County Courthouse. Students from the local middle schools and high schools were invited to participate in a mock trial where they acted in the role of jurors determining the outcome in a trial where attorneys from the county's bar association acted in the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, defendants, and supporting witnesses. Lesson plans made available through the Bar Association were available for teachers to use to educate their student's about the history of voting where students learned that at one point in time voting was restricted to white men who owned property. Students were encouraged to exercise their right to vote and given information about voting in Pennsylvania. The biggest piece of information that the Bar Association wanted to impress on these future voters was to appreciate that they would not be able to vote if it were not for the many people throughout the years who advocated and challenged laws that suppressed their right to vote. With some high school seniors turning 18 before the general election in November the hope is that they will register to vote and most importantly cast a ballot for the candidates of their choice.