Sep 01 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, on National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) emphasized the threat posed by the shortage of poll workers ahead of the November elections, and urged the administrative bodies of each state’s Continuing Legal Education (CLE) system to allow lawyers to volunteer as poll workers on November 3rd in exchange for CLE credits – a measure already undertaken by the Ohio State Bar Association. CLE credits are required professional education for attorneys, who must earn these credits after their initial admission to the bar.
“Across the country, election officials have raised the possibility that many experienced poll workers – who are primarily older than age 60 and at a higher risk from coronavirus – will opt to remain at home this year. We saw early signs of this during primary elections held nationwide earlier this spring and summer, with reduced polling locations in many states as a result of the public health emergency,” wrote Sen. Warner. “A reduction of polling places undermines not only our democracy, but also our public health response, as larger numbers of Americans are forced to rely on a limited number of open polling locations.”
He continued, “Well-trained poll workers are critical to ensuring the secure and effective completion of this year’s elections. Without an adequate number of poll workers during the primaries earlier this year, many states were forced to close polling locations leading to long lines and undoubtedly disenfranchising voters. With much higher turnout expected for this year’s general election, these challenges will be magnified. This impending shortage demands innovative solutions and should serve as a call to service.”
According to the CDC, one of the best ways to mitigate COVID-19-related health risks during the election will be to support a wide variety of alternative voting methods and options – such as expanded early voting and longer voting hours – that reduce the number of voters at a single polling location. However, many of these options require the presence of poll workers, who are traditionally older and therefore more likely to stay home given the risks associated with COVID-19.
In his letters, Sen. Warner also noted that placing lawyers in precincts across the state will also serve to curb voter suppression and other legal violations at a time of increased levels of voter suppression.
Letters were sent to the Alabama State Bar, Alaska Bar Association, State Bar of Arizona, Arkansas Continuing Legal Education Board, State Bar of California, Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center, State Bar of Connecticut, Commission on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of Delaware, Florida Bar, Georgia Commission on Continuing Lawyer Competency, Hawaii State Bar Association, Idaho State Bar, MCLE Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois, Indiana Commission for CLE, Commission on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of Iowa, Kansas CLE Commission, Kentucky Bar Association, Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on MCLE, Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, Minnesota State Board of CLE, Mississippi Commission on CLE, MCLE Department Montana Board of CLE, Nebraska MCLE Commission, Nevada Board of Continuing Legal Education, New Hampshire Minimum CLE Board, Supreme Court of New Jersey, New Mexico MCLE, New York State Continuing Legal Education Board, North Carolina State Bar, North Dakota CLE Commission, MCLE Commission, Oregon State Bar, Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board (PACLE) , Rhode Island MCLE Commission, Commission on CLE and Specialization, Tennessee Commission on CLE and Specialization, State Bar of Texas, Utah State Board of Continuing Legal Education, Vermont Board of Continuing Legal Education, Virginia State Bar, Washington State Board of CLE, West Virginia State Bar, Supreme Court of Wisconsin, and Wyoming State Board of CLE.
A sample letter is available here.
Earlier today, Sen. Warner also cosponsored legislation to address the urgent shortage of poll workers and make it easier for election boards across the country to send recruits to where they are most needed by removing requirements that poll workers be registered to vote in the same county where they are volunteering. Given Leader McConnell’s consistent refusal to advance election assistance legislation, Sen. Warner is encouraging states to explore alternative solutions.
As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has long advocated for the integrity of our elections. In June, he led all Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee in calling for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as the National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State to work proactively to counter any attempts to suppress vulnerable and historically-disenfranchised voters during the COVID-19 crisis.