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Summoning lawyers to serve on Election Day

By Patricia Lee Refo, ABA President

Sept. 28, 2020

The 2020 presidential election is already one for the history books, coming as it does in the middle of a pandemic, with masks and social distancing. Early voting has already begun in many states.

Yet while it seems like Nov. 3 is just around the corner, there is still time for lawyers to do their civic duty and volunteer to be poll workers.

Every year, election officials struggle to find enough poll workers. They are often needed only on Election Day, but sometimes they work before or after, depending on the jurisdiction. This year, the need for poll workers is exacerbated by the pandemic. Poll workers tend to be older men and women. Understandably, many are reluctant to serve this year.

Election officials need our help — especially if you are a young lawyer or law student.

The American Bar Association is teaming up with state officials across the country — the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors — to mobilize lawyers, law students and legal professionals to become poll workers. We call the project Poll Worker, Esq.

The need varies state to state — even county to county within states. Some cities and counties already have enough poll workers. Others desperately need more. The deadline to volunteer and the requirements to serve are different in each state, so it’s best to check the website for information on your locality.  

The stakes are high. In a democracy, nothing is more important than free and fair elections, and poll workers are an essential ingredient. We cannot allow long lines and long wait times to discourage citizens from voting. We must ensure that every eligible citizen has a safe and fair opportunity to cast their ballot.

Many people will vote early this year — by mail or in person — but many others will vote in person on Election Day. For them, it is crucial that we have enough poll workers on Nov. 3, and some states need volunteers to help count votes after that day. Again, for details in your state, check with local election officials.

Lawyers are particularly well-suited to be poll workers because of our strong tradition of public service. Thousands of lawyers have already volunteered to help in many ways during the pandemic. That’s great. We expect an avalanche of legal needs in the coming weeks and months.

The ABA encourages every lawyer to meet the challenge of this national emergency with an increased commitment to public service. That includes working the polls to ensure a free and fair election in 2020.

If you’ve ever considered helping local election officials, now is the time to step forward. America needs us.

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