Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Much is at stake in the 2020 elections. Politically, the nation is deeply divided and a global pandemic invigorates daily life. In this time of turmoil, a smooth and efficient electoral process is vital. The ABA (American Bar Association) encourages attorneys and law students to volunteer as election workers to help them perform an important civic duty during a difficult time.
The ABA, although the Standing Commission on Suffrage, works with the National Association of State Secretaries (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) to encourage attorneys and law students to volunteer as election workers. Patricia Lee Refo, President of the ABA:
“Long waiting times at polling stations or unexpected delays in counting the election results can lead to mistrust of the system. . We hope lawyers and law students will help make this election go smoothly and efficiently. I have volunteered as an election worker here in Phoenix and hope this initiative inspires others to join me. ”
COVID-19 creates challenges for election worker recruitment
Sylvia Albert, director of polls and elections at Common Cause, a watchdog group focused on ensuring access to voting and the integrity of elections, points out that election workers are typically in short supply. Albert describes the problem of the shortage of election workers this year as “exponentially bigger”.
Law students and younger attorneys could play a bigger role this year. Election workers in the United States are generally older Americans. In 2018, according to the Election Assistance Commission, 58% of election workers were 61 years or older, and over 25% were 71 years or older. Even without underlying diseases, this is an age group that is more susceptible to the coronavirus. Many in this age group choose to sit out 2020 for health reasons and because of contact with large numbers of people at a polling station, and younger poll workers can help alleviate a shortage. For this purpose, the ABA Young Lawyers Division and the Law Student Division have joined the initiative. This could provide an opportunity for many junior lawyers and law students to perform an important civic service and ensure a smooth and efficient electoral experience for voters.
Law firm participation and free time on election day
Many large law firms offer their employees and lawyers a paid day off on election day. Mintz, Jenner & Block, Hogan Lovells, and many more companies have announced plans to make Election Day a paid holiday to encourage employee voting and volunteering in election-related activities. Fenwick & West said their polling boost will include “opportunities for volunteers and nonprofits for people to get involved in impartial election activities – including letter campaigns to vote, target and staff an election protection call center, training for election observers, and support and assistance from non-partisan organizations that campaign for the protection, registration and public outreach of voters. “
The ABA is pushing for lawyers to help out
To encourage the effort, the ABA has released a video (see below) detailing the registration process. In addition, a social media campaign on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook with the hashtag #PollworkerEsq encourages lawyers and law students to volunteer. The work may include staffing polling stations, opening polling envelopes, comparing signatures, and assisting election officials in tabulating the results. Requirements and work vary across the country as elections are administered by local bodies, but attorneys and law students may be particularly well suited to the work. In some cases, attorney election worker training can result in a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit.
For all the uncertainty and confusion surrounding the electoral process, especially given the challenges posed by COVID-19, this year is an election like no other in recent times. Regardless of the political struggles, the ability to cast a vote is a crucial piece and important for everyone. Refo says, “There is no question that maintaining the integrity and efficiency of our electoral process is important to all lawyers.”
Those interested can find more information at canivote.org, a website of the National Association of Secretaries of State. The importance of voting and active cross-party civic engagement is critical to a healthy democracy. If volunteering as an election worker is not an option, it is important to check your voter registration and make sure you have a voting plan in place. As Thomas Jefferson said, “We don’t have a majority government. We have a government with the majority participating in it. ”
Copyright © 2020 National Legal Forum, LLCNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 273