With the November 2018 mid-term elections rapidly approaching, state and local election administration offices are in something of a panic mode. Their angst is the result of the threats to registration and voting integrity resulting from the tumultuous 2016 presidential election, when Russian government probes and intrusions along with multiple hacks from both domestic and foreign evildoers could have compromised the entire electoral process. The fact that they did not succeed (presumably) has not reassured anyone that (1) they won’t try again, and (2) that our voting systems are protected. Add to this the Republican concern about voter fraud and you have a volatile mix that generates legal job and business opportunities.
The consequences are good news for attorneys interested in election law and administration. For years, this practice niche was a quiet backwater consisting of a handful of lawyers who came out of hibernation every few years to ply their trade, then disappeared again between election cycles. Not anymore. Today, election law is a full-time, year-round business fraught with confusion, complexity, and controversy.
Thanks to the President’s public skepticism that anything untoward emanated from Moscow last year, the federal government has been unwilling to devote the resources necessary to stave off likely future threats. Instead, the burden has been on states and municipalities to put defenses in place against what could prove to be the most significant menace to American democracy in our history. That means legal jobs.
Five federal agencies have a role in election administration: the Federal Election Commission, https://fec.gov the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, https://eac.gov the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, https://fvap.gov the Justice Department Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section, https://www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section and the Department of Homeland Security, https://dhs.gov. Their combined legal staffs are small and these agencies do not anticipate much if any new hiring. A sixth, the Voter Fraud Commission, was dissolved by the President in early January 2018.
The real action, in terms of attorney numbers and 2018 job opportunities, are in the 50 states and parallel jurisdictions (primarily Attorney General offices http://naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php and Secretary of State offices https://thebalance.com/secretary-of-state-websites-1201005) and at the local level (city and county attorney and election administration offices. Together, the total number of state and local administrative and enforcement agencies heavily involved in elections amounts to more than 3,200. Moreover, while the federal government sits on the sidelines, state and local governments have no choice but to commit resources to tackling voter integrity issues.
These job opportunities are not likely to be temporary ones because the incentives to hostile governments and unaffiliated hackers to corrupt our voting systems are huge and continuing. In addition, hacking is a creative process that has each party reacting to attacks and defenses of the other. With a presidential election less than three years away, election officials nationwide have registration and voter integrity at the top of their priority lists.
- The Election Center https://electioncenter.org/
- National Association of State Election Directors http://nased.org
- Election Administrations Research Database http://ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/elections-research-and-reports-database.aspx