On June 1 and 2, more than 45 volunteers across Proskauer’s US offices assisted voters in exercising their right to vote through a virtual Election Protection call center in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The Election Protection project strives to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process, regardless of political affiliation.
While Proskauer has proudly hosted Election Protection call centers in its offices over the past decade, operating the call center for the state primary elections this year was uniquely challenging, and all-the-more important, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The global pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives, including the ability to safely cast a ballot. As states across the country are revising their election procedures in response to the public health crisis, it is critical to consider the effects of new procedures on safety and ballot accessibility for all eligible voters – especially those who have historically been disenfranchised.
To keep the Election Protection call center operating even as volunteers worked from home, Proskauer and the Lawyers’ Committee implemented new technology and trained all volunteers on responding to voters’ calls remotely through the new platform.
Led by associates Jason Madden and Seth Fiur, and pro bono paralegal Alex Volpicello, Proskauer’s call center team answered calls predominantly from Indiana and Missouri, but also from thirty additional states.
As expected, the volunteers received many questions about whether it was possible to obtain and cast an absentee ballot from voters concerned that in-person voting would not be safely accessible. The answer to this question varied by state. In Missouri, for example, the state legislature had passed an election reform package in a special legislative session to make it easier for those impacted by COVID-19 to get a mail-in ballot, but unfortunately these much-needed reforms had not been implemented in time for the June elections.
For those voters who were able to vote in person, many did not know how to find their current polling location. Due to the pandemic, some polling locations were closed and others were consolidated, causing confusion among voters who were not sure where to go to cast their ballot. In addition to helping voters locate their polling places, our volunteers provided information about what to do if a requested mail-in ballot had not been received in time, what forms of voter identification are required in certain states, and how to re-register if a voter had been purged from the voter rolls.
Volunteers responded to calls from 400 voters across the two-day call center. After each call, Proskauer’s volunteers recorded key information that will enable the Lawyers’ Committee to identify and address systemic issues, to safeguard Americans’ right to vote.
Looking ahead to the general election in November, Proskauer’s pro bono lawyers will continue supporting civic engagement and removing barriers to voting through the Election Protection project.