Law students across the country are fanning out to poll sites as election monitors, manning phones to answer voter questions, and finding other ways to serve the public on Election Day. Some schools, such as Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, are closed in order to allow students to vote and volunteer without missing class. Students at other schools are putting their studies aside for one day to pitch in on voting projects. Here are a few examples of how law students are getting involved.
The University of Pennsylvania Law School
Philadelphia-area voters who are stuck in the hospital are getting help this year from a consortium of Penn students, including those from the medical and law schools. Under the “Penn Votes” project, patients who are unexpectedly hospitalized at two local hospitals—Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania—are able to vote through absentee ballots. Patients wanting to vote absentee fill out an application and medical staff certify that they are too sick to make it to the polls. Then law student volunteers take the notarized application to City Hall, obtain the absentee ballot and take it back to the patient at the hospital. Once it’s filled out, the students take it to the election office. They are also available to advocate for hospitalized voters in the event of any further reviews by elections officials. The process is intended to happen in the week prior to Election Day but there are avenues for hospitalized voters to cast their ballot after that cutoff.
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
If you’re voting Tuesday in Los Angeles, your poll site just might be staffed by a law student from Loyola LA. For the first time, the school partnered with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk office to have law students serve as poll workers at hard-to-staff sites in a bid to help voters better understand their rights. This year students will man polls in Bel Air, Hermosa Beach, Hollywood, Jefferson Park, Lomita, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, South Gate and Valencia. The school billed the project to students as an opportunity to gain experience. Students who aren’t in their first semester will also be paid a stipend for their efforts. And if that weren’t enough, participants can also earn pro bono credit and a reprieve for getting cold-called in class. The law school cancelled classes on Election Day for the first time this year in order to encourage law students to participate.
Rutgers Law School
Students at Rutgers Law School are taking a multi-pronged approach to Election Day volunteerism. Their first push came in the form of voter registration drives, which they held on campus and throughout the community, including at the Camden County, New Jersey, jail. At that event, students helped voters who had been involved in the criminal justice system get registered. Altogether, they registered nearly 100 New Jersey residents.
And Tuesday, Rutgers law students are serving as poll monitors at six locations round Camden County, where they will record voter demographics. They’ll also be on hand to report any potential problems at the polls, such a lack of access for disabled voters, electioneering, or problems will poll workers or those challenging their eligibility to vote. Yet another group of student will be assisting the Camden County Board of Elections with any issues that crop up at the polls on Election Day.
“While there are many aspects that go into civic duty, there is none more important than exercising our right to vote,” said first-year student Weston Dennen. “The United States is a republic, a representative democracy that functions best when the elected leaders are representative of all citizens and their interests. The only way to achieve this is through voting.”