Fighting for Voters' Rights
National Bar Association President Linnes Finney plans to focus his attention on making sure elections are fair.
Six years ago this month, Linnes Finney Jr. of Port St. Lucie, a partner in Willie Gary's powerhouse firm Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson & Sperando, remembers watching Florida's election debacle unfold "in total disbelief." "I found it unbelievable that a country like ours, that exports democracy to other nations, could deny people the right to vote or to have their vote counted," Finney says.
A longtime civic activist shaped by his childhood in late-to-integrate Milledgeville, Ga., Finney has worked to help make sure voting rights are protected in Florida and around the nation. This year, he will use his new position as president of the National Bar Association, the largest association of African-American lawyers and judges, to keep attention focused on fair elections. Finney, 49, was sworn in as president of the 22,000-member organization this fall at NBA's annual convention in Detroit for a one-year term. He has four main initiatives: Beefing up NBA's endowment; developing a middle-school program to help make sure African-American students are prepared for and attend high school; continuing NBA's Hurricane Katrina program, which aids displaced residents as well as displaced lawyers; and seeing through NBA's "Election Protection" program.
Formed in 2002 in conjunction with NAACP, People for the American Way and other groups, Election Protection helps monitor elections, gives voters information about their rights and provides legal assistance to anyone denied the right to vote. As part of the non-partisan effort, NBA has trained thousands of poll monitors, as well as hundreds of lawyers throughout the country, on election law. Finney says he'll probably be manning one of the Florida command centers on Nov. 7.
So does he think monitoring will be enough? "I think things are much better now than they were in 2000," Finney says. "But I still believe in and want there to be a paper trail for voters in this country."