Monday, December 14, 2020

Election 2020 and Completing Your Pro Bono Requirements

As part Loyola’s requirements for graduation, all students have to complete forty (40) hours of pro bono work. Generally, students cannot start accumulating hours until after the first semester of 1L year. Once the first semester exam period is over, 1Ls can submit up to 10 hours of pro bono work. This can include traditional legal work but there are wide variety of activities that students can do to fulfill this requirement. For example, during the spring semester a lot of people volunteer with Young Lawyers to coach high school students on trial advocacy. Many students (myself included) also participate in clinics where they receive on-the-job training and legal instruction while working with underserved people in the community. Today I wanted to talk about my experience as a poll worker in the 2020 election.

Election work is a relatively new way that students can earn pro bono hours. I volunteered as an election observer in 2018. It was a fun experience but, as a 1L in my first semester, I could not claim those hours as part of my graduation requirement. However, based on my conversations with 1Ls this year, it sounds like that restriction may have changed.

This year, I volunteered as a poll worker at the Pasadena Convention Center. The training was about seven hours long (two hours of online training plus five hours of in-person training) and the actual election day shift is about 15 hours long so it’s a great way to complete a significant number of hours while learning about the local election process. The training is long but not very difficult and I appreciated the time spent going over various scenarios like if a person isn’t registered or if their registration information is incorrect.

Election day itself was fantastic. This pandemic has left me a little starved for real human interaction so I was ecstatic to go out and work with everyone and help voters. I was especially happy to work with two other Loyola Law students, Kim Protzel and Simone Bishara (pictured below). Also, I learned from Simone, a first semester 1L, that the administration was allowing her and other 1Ls to claim up to 10 hours of election work toward their pro bono requirement!

We spent pretty much the entire day cleaning the voting machines and showing people how to “cast” their ballot after they had made their selections. One interesting moment was when I had to chase after a woman who had accidentally walked out of the voting center with her ballot before casting it. If you have a chance to be an election worker, do it! It is a long day but it is absolutely worth it.

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