As voters around the country cast their ballots on November 6, hundreds of law students monitored polling sites, answered telephone calls from confused citizens, kept tabs on election developments or canvassed for their chosen candidates.
It was a busy day at Ohio State Michael E. Moritz College of Law, where more than 30 students and faculty staffed an information and research hub dubbed Election Central. The project, which the school has hosted for each federal election since 2004, offers real-time election updates and analysis for the public and the news media. Staffers were monitoring national developments, including two lawsuits alleging that the software used in Ohio voting machines was vulnerable to manipulation, and keeping close tabs on reports of long lines at polling places.
“As a team, we’re collecting the most significant election events and analyzing them on our website,” said professor Steven Huefner. “Thus far, it has been like most other elections, with scattered problems around the country.”
Some students volunteered with national organizations that host election hot lines. Members of the Election Law Society at the College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law took local calls through that school’s VOTEline program.
More than 100 students at the University of North Carolina School of Law answered calls for a hotline organized through the national, nonpartisan Election Protection advocacy organization. Voters began calling even before the line opened at 6:30 a.m., said Meriwether Evans, a 3L who oversees student pro bono programs.
“We’ve got 30 people at any given time, and they are all busy,” she said. “Every couple of minutes the phone will ring.”
Most callers want to know whether they are registered, where their polling place is or when the poll are open, said 2LCharlotte Stewart, who had been answering calls. Others had more serious questions about voter intimidation or people improperly distributing campaign material at polling places. Those calls are handed off to volunteer attorneys, she said.
“The callers are appreciative to have someone answering their questions, so they’re not just standing in a long line being frustrated,” Stewart said. “It’s a contentious election cycle and people want to make sure they can exercise their rights.”
About 40 students at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law connected with Election Protection to field voter questions and monitor polling sites throughout Pima County. The monitors, accompanied by attorneys and a few retired judges, fanned out across the county, said 1L Nate Wade, who helped to organize the effort. About half of the county’s polling places were eliminated in a recent redistricting, and volunteers were helping voters find their proper sites, he said. The volunteers were well versed in the state’s voter identification laws and were helping voters and poll workers follow the rules, he said.
“We’ve also heard that some groups claiming to be nonpartisan will be at poll sites and will try to discourage people from voting, saying they don’t have the correct identification,” Wade said. “We haven’t seen any of that yet, but we’re looking out for it. It’s all about making sure people get to vote.”
The National Black Law Students Association was busy, too. Association attorney general Yvesner Harnould Zamar, a 3L at theUniversity of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, estimated that about 500 of the group’s 6,000 members have worked on election issues, either as poll monitors or in voter education programs. Members also have been spreading information via social media, he said.
“Law students are in a good position to assist,” Zamar said. “We have more knowledge about that law, and if someone says we can’t do something, we’re going to ask questions and do the research.”
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Election Keeps Phones Ringing in Kirkland’s NY Office
As citizens around the country attempted to cast their ballots on Tuesday, Kirkland & Ellis hosted a call center in its midtown Manhattan office to answer questions about election laws and help to sort out any legal issues arising at polling locations.