For sake of honest elections, allow lawyers to earn academic credit as poll judges
We are two months away from one of the most significant presidential elections of our lifetime. While more than 1 million Illinoisans have requested mail-in ballots so far, we know that many more plan to vote in person on Election Day. We also know distrust of voting by mail is particularly prevalent in historically disenfranchised Black and immigrant communities, who fear their mail-in ballots won’t get counted by a government that has routinely counted them out.
A looming problem is a shortage of poll workers. More than half of the poll workers in the 2016 presidential election were 61 years or older, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and they aren’t volunteering this time because of the dangers of contracting COVID-19. Fewer poll workers means longer lines, or possibly even precincts that can’t open.
We have to do everything we can to guarantee free and fair elections and to recruit poll workers who are not as high-risk for getting sick and who can solve problems at the polls.
One way to do this is by following Ohio’s lead and offering continuing legal education (CLE) credits for lawyers in exchange for taking part in the election. Every two years, practicing attorneys must complete 30 hours of CLE credits, and Illinois should allow them to serve as election judges to partially fulfill this requirement. Illinois attorneys have a distinguished record of public service and now can further give back to fill this urgent need for election judges who can deliver accurate, accessible, secure elections for their fellow Illinoisans.
We have to do everything we can to make sure every voice is heard and every ballot is counted — let’s get creative and get it done. Michael Cabonargi, Cook County Board of Review