around the bar
August 3, 2012

New ABA ‘Lawyer as Citizen’ Initiative and Website Encourage Lawyers to Volunteer on Election Day

The _ Annual Meeting Aug. 2-7 in Chicago marks the kickoff of a “Lawyer as Citizen” campaign to encourage lawyers to volunteer at the polls in the November election. At the panel “Lawyer as Citizen: Assisting in the Administration of Elections” on Friday, Aug. 3, the ABA rolled out a new site, www.ambar.org/vote, that is a resource for lawyers who want to become more involved in the electoral process.

The ABA began this initiative because of its belief that lawyers can play an important and necessary role in the administration of elections, said Elizabeth Yang, director of the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law.

“Encouraging lawyers to serve as official nonpartisan poll workers can only enhance the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law as it pertains to elections,” Yang said. “In addition, lawyers possess the experience, knowledge and skill sets to enhance confidence in our nation’s voting process, the bedrock of our democracy.”

Another motivation behind the initiative: reports from election administrators that there is a critical need for volunteers to work the polls this fall. There is “a shortage of citizens willing to act as election officials on Election Day,” said Jack Young, chair of the Lawyer as Citizen Initiative and co-chair of the Advisory Commission to the Standing Committee on Election Law. “Lawyers can play a significant role in the voting process by serving as these officials. … The ABA’s ‘Lawyer as Citizen’ program seeks to fill the gap in the number of election officials and thereby work to improve our electoral system.”

The new ABA Vote website connects lawyers to their polling places in several steps that include selecting your state as well as your county or city to arrive at your local election website, Yang said. Local election sites will list the requirements and duties of serving as a poll worker and may allow the registration process to begin online.

The site provides a “quick and easy means for lawyers to register and be qualified to serve in this capacity in compliance with the specific requirements of their local jurisdiction,” said Benjamin Griffith, chair of the Standing Committee on Election Law. Griffith recently released the second edition of America Votes! A Guide to Modern Election Law and Voting Rights, which provides key information and perspective on election-law questions that the courts are now addressing or will soon be considering.

“Let’s give real meaning to service and take an active role” in this election, Griffith said.

The new ABA Vote website is sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law and the Division for Public Education.