November 27, 2019 CHAIR'S COLUMN

Chair's Column: November 2019

Senior Lawyers Engaged in the Election Process for 2020

By Albert C. Harvey

The Senior Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association has a number of ongoing projects offering opportunities for service to the profession and to the community. A new task force is being organized to encourage senior lawyers to engage in efforts to improve the election process.

The election of 2020 will be a critical test of our democratic system. In January 2017 an assessment was released by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence that the Russian Government and its agents had interfered in the 2016 elections. The DNI was sharing the intelligence from a number of the intelligence gathering agencies of the government. In March 2019, Special Counsel of the Department of Justice, Robert Mueller, submitted his report titled: "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election". That 448-page report confirmed that there had been Russian interference in that election which was illegal and which occurred  “in sweeping and systematic fashion”. Special Counsel and other U.S. Attorney offices ultimately indicted 34 individuals and three companies. Several trials and convictions followed.

If the United States is to ensure that elections are conducted fairly and without outside interference, there is a need for senior leadership at the local level by dedicated senior lawyers.

Why senior lawyers? They are perfect for the mission. They know the law or how to find it. They are experienced with elections and voting (each state having different systems for registration and voting). They are enthusiastic for the democratic process of government. They have gravitas from years of law practice and in community service. And they have the time.

What can seniors do? Seniors can participate in election reform measures such as ballot design, machine usage, and improved tabulation. Senior lawyers can organize and train, in their communities, non-partisan election observers. They can volunteer to become officers and judges of elections at the precinct level. Senior lawyers can assist with voter registration and work to improve the situation revealed in recent studies showing that 25 percent of the eligible voters are not registered to vote. As former SLD Chair Jack Young wrote: “Senior lawyers can lead to big changes when it comes to improving our system of electing those who govern us.”

The Senior Lawyer Task Force will work with the ABA Standing Committee on Elections and other ABA Sections and Divisions preparing for future elections. The Standing Committee already has some excellent materials and web site programs to help start the process. For example, see www.voteyourvoicenow.org.

If you are interested in being part of the SLD Task Force, send your information and ideas to our Senior Lawyers Division staff director, Emily Roschek at Emily.roschek@americanbar.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Author

Albert C. Harvey has an extensive practice in federal and state courts defending doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, and other professionals. He is involved in complex business litigation, intellectual property disputes, and securities cases.  Mr. Harvey has a special interest in national security and governmental affairs and frequently lectures, teaches, and consults with clients on these matters. In addition, he has served at the state and national levels on setting ethical standards for lawyers and judges. Mr. Harvey recently retired from the United States Marine Corps Reserve with the rank of Major General.