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Federal Judge Dale Ho Comes to Heschel for MLK Day

In advance of Martin Luther King Day, Judge Dale Ho, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, came to speak to Heschel highschoolers about voting rights, which he called “the right that protects other rights.” 

Before becoming a judge, Judge Ho ran the voting rights project for the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU). He was a litigator and argued before many state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He was confirmed this past June and received his judicial commission on August 18, 2023. 

Judge Ho spoke particularly about the way that the fight around voting rights has changed over the course of American history. He explained, “Nothing in the Constitution affirmatively gives the right to vote,” but over time voting rights were expanded. And while, as he stated, this progress “has not been linear” more and more Americans obtained the right to vote overtime. Judge Ho claimed that the contested issues around voting rights in recent years lie “mainly around processes and procedures.” 

Judge Ho also spoke about opposition to voting rights by people who want to limit voting to “intelligent voters,” and the ways gerrymandering, the process of reshaping districts for political gain, has been a prevalent issue in recent years. 

At the end of the program, students had the opportunity to ask Judge Ho questions about voting rights. One student asked about low voter turnout, in response to which Judge Ho alluded to the fact that there are multiple elections for national and local positions. He explained that this diminishes “voter energy” and that America is a “mobile society” — people move around a lot and have trouble registering to vote when they move to new states. A senior asked Judge Ho for voting advice, and he encouraged students to “make a plan” long before election days. 

Students had mixed reactions about Judge Ho’s answers to questions. As a sitting federal judge, he was unable to answer certain questions about his politics and opinions, especially relating to current cases.

Junior Eli Goldman said that because of Judge Ho’s inability to answer certain questions his comments were “expectedly mild.”  

Junior Reuben Feingold did not particularly enjoy the program because he found it “unengaging” and “irrelevant” to our lives. 

Senior Eva Ungar enjoyed the program and said that Judge Ho “eloquently conveyed the importance of maintaining a just democratic process and the dangers of voter suppression.” 


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