For sake of hon­est elec­tions, al­low lawyers to earn aca­demic credit as poll judges

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

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

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