Sep 1, 2020
By Christopher A. Wagner
Our nation is fighting a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and a renewed call for social justice centuries in the making. We have adapted, we have sacrificed, and we have worried about the future.
Add another worry — there are federal and local elections on November 3. At this time, in person voting is still scheduled for that date but election officials across our state know that there are not enough volunteers to work the polls. With this in mind, Ohio Secretary of Ohio Frank LaRose asked the Ohio Supreme Court for assistance. On July 22, the Ohio Supreme Court approved up to four hours of CLE credit for the training that poll workers receive, so long as the attorney serves all day as a poll worker on November 3.1
This call to arms for the attorneys of our state came about because the Ohio Supreme Court recognized that these perilous times requires such an unusual move. States that conducted in-person voting for their primary elections suffered long lines as the lack of poll workers caused many polling locations to be shuttered. This past April in Wisconsin, there were so few poll workers that the governor called in the National Guard to help staff the few remaining polling locations. In Milwaukee, the normal 180 polling locations were reduced to 5. In the Atlanta metro area more than 80 polling places were closed and consolidated due to Covid-19, resulting in long lines.
There are less than two months until the election. Please consider volunteering and working a poll on Election Day. Both political parties (who are jointly responsible for the local boards of elections) recognize the importance of quality poll workers.
Alex Triantafilou, Hamilton County Republican Party Chair and member of the Hamilton County Board of Elections remarked: “Being a poll worker is the single best way to serve our election process. By ensuring the integrity of an election and studiously following the law on a bipartisan basis, our fine profession can set an example for the community and demonstrate our commitment to justice.”
Gwen McFarland, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair and chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections implored: “This is great opportunity for our lawyers to give back to the community and continue their commitment to the Ohio Constitution. Lawyers, with their training and experience, can play a key role in protecting what John Lewis taught us in his last statement: that the vote is the most powerful non-violent change agent we have in a democratic society.”
Not everyone will feel comfortable volunteering as an Election Day poll worker. Other options exist for helping inform and educate members of the voting public about the importance of participating in their civic duty. Applications to receive an absentee ballot can be requested from the Ohio Secretary of State website at ohiosos.gov. We can all help our local boards of elections by submitting applications early so staff can better process the anticipated influx of requests. Additionally, the sooner the ballots are in, the easier Election Day becomes for staff and volunteers. (Also, all the campaigns stop calling you if they know your ballot has been received by the board of election!)
If you’re interested in volunteering in Election Day efforts, there are several local organizations committed to facilitating varied opportunities for involvement:
My law school dean, Joseph Tomain of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, always said that lawyers are leaders. In this time of pandemic, strife, and worry, we need to step up united as a profession to do our part to ensure a fair and safe election.
Wagner is the chief of compliance with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts and the 2020-2021 CBA president.
1 See whole order at 07/22/2020 Administrative Actions, 2020-Ohio-3799.