Election law seminars that a Republican lawyers group held in Illinois — which happened to coincide with GOP senate candidate Mark Kirk being secretly recorded saying his campaign would be running voter integrity squads in predominately black neighborhoods of Chicago — are actually part of a series of seminars the group is holding for Republican lawyers in several states around the country
According to the Republican National Lawyers Association’s Facebook page, they have held events in Illinois, Nevada, Wisconsin, California, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida. Earlier this month, the Washington D.C. Chapter held a lunch with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
The group notes on one sign-up site for a Chicago training event that the “utmost care is taken to provide instruction that stresses the protection of the constitutional right to vote and avoids any activity that would limit or discourage the right of anyone to cast a legal vote, including racial minorities.”
The RNLA has been involved with training lawyers in the past several elections, has a particular focus on allegations of voter fraud and focuses on efforts which they are are meant to ensure “ballot security” or “election integrity,” which many voting rights experts say suppress minority turnout.
“Over the last several years they’ve been a very dominant player in this,” Tova Wang, Senior Democracy Fellow at Demos, told TPMMuckraker on Friday. Demos, a public policy research and advocacy organization, put out a report on voter suppression this year and has called for poll watchers to be educated about voter laws. “I would not accuse them of doing anything untoward, but they certainly have been an organizing vehicle for poll watchers on the Republican side. I’d have to know what they are telling people to know whether it is a problem.”
The RNLA is a well-connected group that has featured major conservative speakers at their events — including RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Ed Gillespie. According to a press release on their 2010 Election efforts, they have trained over 1,000 lawyers across the country.
Here’s the group’s press release on their 2010 efforts:
The Republican National Lawyers Association (“RNLA”) is an organization that educates lawyers on election law. Each year it holds election law seminars to educate lawyers about changes in the election laws and the cases interpreting and applying them. The RNLA is a continuing legal education provider and its seminars are accredited by the Bar Associations and/or Supreme Courts of various states. It also provides sessions on professional ethics as required by the continuing legal education rules of the Supreme Courts of many states. This year the RNLA has trained over 1,000 lawyers.
The RNLA is dedicated to educating lawyers on protecting each registered voter’s right to cast a ballot unencumbered by harassment or other obstruction, and preventing the influencing of election outcomes through unlawful activities. The role of the lawyer to promote ballot access to all qualified voters and to ensure reliability of the electoral process is emphasized. RNLA programs provide information to enable attorneys it trains to protect the rights of all voters, regardless of party affiliation.
The Republican National Lawyers Association is an independent nationwide organization supported primarily by the dues of its over 5,000 members. As the principal national organization of lawyers committed to the ideals of the Republican Party, the Association has a targeted set of missions: advancing professionalism; advancing open, fair, and honest elections; advancing career opportunities for its members; and advancing Republican ideals.