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ABA Members and Staff Volunteer on Election Day

ABA Members and Staff Volunteer on Election Day

By Matthew (Matt) Stegen

Lawyers are effecting change on Election Day by volunteering their time at the polls and helping to instill public confidence in the voting process.

Margaret Masunaga will be working at Konawaena Elementary School in Kealakekua, Hawaii.

“I just saw how important it was for so many people to go in and vote,” said Masunaga, who began working at the polls in 2010 and serves on the Elections Commission for the State of Hawaii. “You can see how they are proud to take part in democracy.”

Kristi Gaines, a legislative counsel at the American Bar Association, will volunteer in Arlington County, Va., on Tuesday.

“Working at the ABA on the “Lawyer as Citizen” campaign and other election-related issues, I thought I would like to see how the process actually works on the ground,” said Gaines, who expects to stay at the polls from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Election Day.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Election Law, with the help of several other sections, divisions and outside organizations, has organized “Lawyer as Citizen.” The purpose of the initiative is to involve lawyers in a critical role of the administration of elections. In the face of a declining number of volunteers, the ABA will continue to urge lawyers to serve as official nonpartisan poll workers beyond 2012.

“We possess the experience, knowledge and skill sets to ensure that our democratic process is fair and the right to vote is preserved,” said Laurel Bellows, president of the ABA.

The ABA also urges law firms and other legal employers to allow time lawyers spend as official poll workers to qualify as community service, or voluntary public service hours, and for nonlawyer staff to be allowed paid leave to serve as official poll workers.

“Let us, as lawyers, do our part by voting on Election Day, by volunteering at the polls and by advancing the rule of law that sustains our democracy,” Bellows added.

“[Poll workers believe] everyone has a right to vote,” said Masunaga, who also serves on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and as a state delegate to the association. “It’s a long day, but our adrenaline keeps us going!”

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