Law professors across the nation will make it their duty to work the polls on election day. WMU-Cooley Law Professor Kimberly O’Leary is just one of many at the law school who will be working all day on Tuesday, November 8, to ensure that everyone who turns out and wants to vote, gets to vote.
She joins hundreds of attorneys and law students who turn out to help make sure voter laws are followed and people are not prevented from voting. According to the State of Michigan website, references Professor O’Leary, “Michigan has 83 counties, 274 cities, and 1,242 townships. During an election, each of these units of government requires a staff of paid workers to work at the polls.”
Additionally, Presidential campaigns recruit hundreds of volunteers and train them in election law in each state.
O’Leary volunteered in Flint in 2008 and 2012. “It is easy to complain about government and elections. But sometimes, you have to step up and help. By the time we get to a Presidential election, emotions are running high on both sides. Lawyers trained in election law can help defuse possible contentious situations.”
O’Leary found that her training as a lawyer also contributed to the ability to help with non-legal issues. “Are there enough voting machines, so that people are not waiting for hours in line? Do people know which line to stand in? Are elderly and disabled voters helped?” Often, O’Leary discovered, these kinds of issues were more important than the intricacies of voter training law.
This year, rather than being assigned to one precinct, O’Leary has been tapped to travel to a variety of precincts on behalf of the City of Flint. As an election inspector, she will help monitor the status of voting to make sure everyone who wants to vote, gets to vote.
“Our democracy relies upon the participation of its citizens,” said O’Leary. “It is easy to compromise democracy if it is too difficult to vote. Lawyers and law students can help make it easier.”
Not surprisingly, more volunteers and paid staff are present in perceived “swing” states. This is because allegations of fraud or intimidation are more likely to occur in those states. Moreover, precincts with heavier minority populations are also more likely to be the target of intimidation. Lawyers are there to ease tensions, and send a clear message to voters that someone is there to help them exercise this precious right. Professor O’Leary says, “It’s times like this that a person is proud to be an attorney.”
WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary has written in the field of attorney-client counseling, housing law, diversity training, the relationship between social justice goals and clinical law offices and clinical teaching. She has presented papers at the UCLA/University of London International Clinical Scholarship Conference and the New York Clinical Theory Workshop.