In every election since the start of our country people have said, “This is the most important election of our lives,” and every four years, this mantra can be heard from candidates on the campaign trail, talking heads on the television, and from our friends, families, and co-workers who support this candidate or the other. This year is no different in that way; but, for many people, they do feel like this election is somehow different than the others: That this election may, in fact, be the most important election of their lives. Whether they support the current regime or are thirsty for change—People feel the gravity of this election and the importance of the power of democracy.
One way this year’s election is different from the past is never before has the very right to vote been under such threat. Whether you are a registered Democrat, Republican, third party, or not at all, everyone seems to be concerned with the exercising of the right to vote this year. Voting by Mail (or Absentee Ballots, as they are known in Florida) has been under attack as unreliable with delays in mail and funding cuts to the United States Postal Service threatening the secure delivery of the ballot. With the Coronavirus at the center of American life right now, this safe and contact-free way of voting has become more crucial than ever; but sadly, Voting by Mail has become the center of a debate that has never been politicized prior to this election. Fearful of fraud or not having their ballot counted, many voters will turn to the in-person options of Early Voting and Election Day to cast their ballots.
Protecting the integrity of the vote has been major talking points for both parties this election cycle, and both parties have instituted programs to protect the election results. The Democratic Party and the Joe Biden campaign have created Voter Protection Teams across the county to combat voter suppression and ensure people can exercise their right to vote, and the Republican Party is recruiting Poll Watchers to ensure only American citizens cast ballots on Election Day. There are ways for people of both parties, and lawyers and supporters of both major Presidential to use their legal training to volunteer and protect our democracy.
The Florida Democratic Party and the Biden-Harris Presidential Campaign are looking for lawyers and law students to volunteer to join their “Voter Protection Team.” Volunteers can assist inside polling locations to ensure legal voters are not turned away from voting, outside the polls to assist voters in need, and on a call-in legal hotline to answer questions people may have about their right to vote.
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is also recruiting supporters to be “Poll Watchers” at Early Voting and Election Day Precincts. Volunteers for the president’s campaign will be present at inside polling locations to challenge voters they believe are voting illegally and prevent non-citizen immigrants from attempting to vote.
If you have interest in volunteering for either Presidential campaign, please reach out to me and I can set you up with the point person from the campaign you want to help out. I have been in touch with the Supervisor of Elections here in Osceola and Orange County, and I would be thrilled to point you in the right direction (regardless of your political affiliation).
Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether you support the current president, the former vice president, or no one at all, it is important for all of us to engage in the democratic process. As members of the Osceola County Bar, it is our duty to use the knowledge and training we have to benefit our community and uphold the rights enshrined in our Constitution. Although being an attorney is not required to volunteer for either party, having a depth of legal knowledge can really be helpful when helping people exercise their constitutional rights.
Personally, I have volunteered every two years since 2014 to help protect people’s right to vote. I have helped both Republican and Democratic Voters be able to participate in democracy and have their voice heard through their vote. It is an incredibly rewarding experience, and I believe every member of the legal profession should get involved with this sacred duty.
This year, more than ever, we need passionate and engaged people to fight for our democracy and the future of our county. We need people who will stand-up for our values and protect the vote! I encourage everyone to reach out and be part of this process.
Get involved, get active, and most importantly—GO VOTE!