League of Women Voters Files Amicus in Case Threatening to Eliminate Laws Regulating Guns in Public Places, Posing Threat to Voters at Polling Places

Jeff Kowalski/AFP/Getty file

By Casey Rawlings

WASHINGTON D.C. – Earlier this week, the League of Women Voters of the U.S. along with the League of Women Voters of New York and Florida filed an amicus brief regarding a current US Supreme Court Case involving gun laws and possible voter intimidation.

The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, is challenging current New York laws which require constituents to display cause before permitting the carrying of concealed weapons in certain public places, including polling places.

Ultimately, this case threatens to eliminate laws regulating guns in public places, and the absence of these restrictions could facilitate deplorable intimidation at voting places, claim critics.

The League of Women Voters amicus brief formally stipulated its position on the case by providing historical perspectives and extending a sympathetic advocate.

Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, board president of the League of Women Voters (LWV) of the United States, described the LWV’s interest in this case, stating, “allowing private citizens to carry guns inside polling places and at other election-related events poses a threat to the electoral process. Voter intimidation must not be tolerated.”

She continued to describe the LWV’s passion for protecting the constitutional right to safe polling places. As described in the amicus brief, “the right to vote and engage in election-related activity includes the right to do so safely.”

Turner added on to this, explaining, “voters have a right to safe access to their polling place, and these laws protect that constitutional right. They must be upheld.”

Cooley LLP represents the LWV, and partner, Adam Gershenson, noted the historical and empirical importance of the issue, stating, “no citizen should face intimidation or have their fundamental right to vote undermined, especially at a time when we have seen a disturbing increase in armed intimidation at the polls and at political activities more broadly.”

The amicus brief elaborates on this, providing multiple contexts in which treats of force have been used to intimidate voters, such as post reconstruction violence towards Black voters and an instance in 1874 in which “more than five thousand men fought in the streets of New Orleans, in a battle between supporters of Louisiana’s Republican governor . . . [and] a group allied with the Democrats.”

The brief provided more recent examples as well, citing six documented instances of armed intimidation at state polling locations in 2016 and 2018, as well as a man in Maryland who was arrested after telling his Biden-supporting neighbors, “this is a warning to anyone reading this letter if you are a Biden[] supporter you will be targeted.”

The brief further argued firearm proliferation alone could dissuade voters from participating, and that it facilitates fear that voting-related conflict will turn violent.

The brief suggested a larger issue: that the intimidating effect of firearms potentially disrupts every phase of the electoral process, explaining that, “vigorous disagreement {in an electoral process} signals a democracy’s health, but can also precipitate heated confrontations. Absent the involvement of firearms, such confrontations generally end unremarkably. But where firearms are introduced into the equation, citizens rightly begin to fear that ordinary electoral related conflicts pose danger.”

The brief concludes suppressive effects are not necessarily dependent on suppressive intent, demonstrating that gun carrying cannot be separated from violence.

Pointedly, the amicus brief states, “in a nation where 58 percent of American adults report that they or someone they care for has been impacted by gun violence,” guns can become intimidating exterior of a violent atmosphere.

New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen is expected to be heard before the court later this fall.

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