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Defending Democracy

Defending Democracy was created to support everyday frontline workers for democracy.

Defending Democracy was created to support everyday frontline workers for democracy.

iStock / SeventyFour

Road Map to Defending Democracy

Actionable steps that you can take right now to defend democracy

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 . . .

  1. Take a tour of your local election authority to learn how our electoral process really works. Defending Democracy can help you set up a tour
  2. Ensure the safety of election workers in your community
  3. Volunteer as a poll worker.
  4. Volunteer to provide pro bono assistance to election workers who have been the victims of threats and harassment
  5. Volunteer to assist with organizations engaged in nonpartisan efforts to protect fair elections and the right to vote. 

About the Initiative

The American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law (SLG) has created a new initiative, Defending Democracy, which focuses on state and local election administrators and their work as they defend and ensure our democratic process on the frontlines, kicked off at the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting. 

Election administrators do not have easy jobs, under normal circumstances, and now, especially in current times, we see a disturbing trend to excoriate and threaten the physical safety of election administrators and their families if the outcome of an election does not have a desired result. Recently, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Pew Charitable Trusts have published reports and findings that these threats are also impacting the ability of our elections to run smoothly due to attrition resulting from these threats and verbal abuse. 

These election workers are our boots on the ground, simply doing their jobs to ensure that our democracy remains vibrant and successful. The hallmark of our democracy is that voters should be able to cast their ballots freely and without fear of reprisal. Accordingly, a similar courtesy must be extended to election administrators. Unfounded attacks on our election administrators only serve to denigrate and cast aspersions on the integrity of our electoral process and must not be allowed to continue.

Thus, our goals are to:

  1. Educate the public about the important role that election workers play in ensuring that our voting process works best for all our citizens when public safety can be ensured;
  2. Promote an understanding that the average election worker is non-partisan when carrying out their work;
  3. Promote the integrity of and public trust in our electoral process; 
  4. Ensure adequate protection and a sense of security for election workers who are on the frontlines of our democracy.

Defending Democracy was created to support everyday frontline workers for democracy. State and local election administrators and workers have toiled for years in anonymity, in the furtherance of our democratic society. Any attacks on our fundamental right to vote and any action that places our voting process in harm’s way by impugning the integrity or public perception of our electoral process must be fully addressed.

It is crucial that now, as we are seeing growing and unprecedented attacks on our election officials and workers—some permanent employees of state, local or territorial governments, others that are temporary employees, and some who work as volunteers—that SLG and the American Bar Association be seen as supporting them and the rule of law in our electoral process.

Tours and Programming

Tours – Showcasing the transparency of the electoral process

  • January 31, 2024: Tour of the Jefferson County Elections Center. The tour included a presentation of the entire voting process, including machinery, beginning with voter registration and ending with the counting of ballots, by the bipartisan staff of the Elections Center. The Tour also included an opportunity to meet Bobbie Holsclaw, currently serving her 7th term as Clerk of Jefferson County and Chair of the Board of Elections.
  • August 4, 2023: Tour of Denver Elections Division. The tour included a walk through of the facility, with up close looks at machinery, the security of the system, as well a detailed presentation on mail ballots and drop boxes.
  • October 1, 2022: Tour of the Multnomah County Elections Division. The tour included a special presentation by Oregon Secretary of State, the Honorable Shemia Fagan, who discussed the impact of vote by mail on participation and election integrity and how the ballot measure process led Oregon to be the first state in the nation to use vote by mail exclusively.
  • August 5, 2022: Tour of the Headquarters of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Our group met the election officials who are standing on the front lines of democracy in the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois as well as the leaders of the Mikva Challenge, a program that encourages and trains high school students to work in polling places on election day.


  • February 2, 2024: Stepping Up, Lawyers Defending Democracy.

Democracy is not a partisan issue. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent this program is for you. Our democracy is in peril and right now it requires all of us to step up to ensure our democracy today and for generations to come. Join us to learn the many ways available to lawyers to defend democracy. Our discussion will start with a presentation on threats to democracy and election officials by David Becker, Executive Director and Founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, and a member of the ABA's Task Force for American Democracy. Hear first hand of the myriad of opportunities for lawyers to defend democracy including: opportunities to provide pro bono assistance to election workers who have been the victim of threats, harassment, and other egregious actions; engage and educate their local communities about how the election process really works; serve as poll workers; and general civic engagement and public service opportunities. Just remember, it doesn't matter what path you take, just so long as you join as in Defending Democracy.


Elizabeth M. Yang, Reston, VA
Co-Reporter, Task Force for American Democracy, American Bar Association; Chair, Elections, Democracy and Rule of Law Committee, Section of State and Local Government Law


  • David Becker, Washington, DC
    Founder and Executive Director, Center for Election Innovation & Research
  • Jose Castro, Denver, CO
    Associate, Spencer Fane; Chair, YLD Civic Engagement Team
  • Stephen Cobb, Washington, DC
    Partner, Cozen O’Connor; Democracy Fellow, Section of State and Local Government Law
  • Jason Kaune, San Rafael, CA
    Head Political Law Practice, Nielsen Merksamer; Chair, Standing Committee on Election Law
  • Angie Pitha, Denver, CO
    Project Lead, Election Official Legal Defense Network
  • Dr. Cynthia Swann, Washington, DC
    Chief of Staff, Hip Hop Caucus

August 4, 2022: A Bird’s-Eye Vantage Point of Defending Democracy.

Join an engaging discussion featuring state and local government officials holding the frontlines of defending and supporting our democratic process. Learn firsthand how election officials are preparing for challenges expected in the 2022 midterm elections, from election disinformation to physical threats against election officials, potential cyber security attacks, and partisan excoriation against election officials trying to do their jobs within the construct of complicated election procedures.


  • Elizabeth M. Yang, President of WStrong LLC, Reston, VA


  • William J. Kresse, Commissioner, Chicago Board of Elections, Chicago, IL
  • David A. Wheeler, Partner, Gerber Eisenberg, Chicago, IL

Donate to the Defending Democracy Initiative

Election workers face increasing risks of reprisal and abuse. The Defending Democracy initiative educates the public on the important role that election workers play in our democratic process and promotes the public's trust in our electoral process. Help the State and Local Government Law Section in funding this initiative.

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