February 19, 2020

Law Students Around the Country Advocate for Days of Service on Election Day  


An election polling place station during a United States election.

What if colleges and universities canceled classes on Election Day, freeing students to instead devote the day to civic service? It’s a ground-breaking idea and one that is happily becoming a reality, thanks to the innovation and perseverance of our nation’s ACS law student leaders.

Promoting civic engagement through participation in elections is a natural fit for law schools

In 2016, the ACS Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Student Chapter advocated for their school to become the first law school in the nation to cancel classes on Election Day and establish a Day of Civic Service. In pushing for the change, ACS Northwestern Law Student Chapter leaders emphasized their belief that it was their “duty as law students to support voter registration efforts and volunteer on Election Day with nonpartisan organizations to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to vote.”

Fast forward to today. In November 2019, Northwestern Law permanently canceled classes and established a Day of Civic Service on all federal election days. Carrying on the legacy started by ACS leaders four years ago, student leaders successfully advocated for their fellow students’ desires for civic service opportunities, and to solidify Northwestern’s role as a leader and pioneer of electoral engagement by law schools.

Ever since that first year of canceled classes, students have reported overwhelmingly positive experiences from their Days of Civic Service. Nearly every student who provided feedback to ACS said that they could not have volunteered had classes not been canceled. And every single first-year law student said they would eagerly participate in another Day of Civic Service if given the chance. Class cancellation efforts have also served to promote campus unity, bringing together diverse student organizations in the common cause of civic participation.

ACS student chapters around the country are advocating for class cancellation on their campuses

 The national impact that the ACS Northwestern Law Student Chapter has had on class cancellation efforts during Election Day cannot be understated. Back in 2016, Northwestern Law went further than any other school in the nation to promote voting rights and civic engagement among its student body.

Other schools quickly took notice. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln launched its class cancellation effort after hearing about it from the ACS Northwestern Law Student Chapter leaders. And although the university fell short of fully canceling classes, it nonetheless encouraged professors to excuse absences on Election Day and hosted training sessions for student volunteers to serve as poll watchers and election judges in the state’s capital.

Other schools that have joined the effort include Loyola Law School, North Carolina Central University School of Law, and UCLA School of Law, while Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Texas A&M University School of Law, and University of Minnesota Law School, are all contemplating similar programs.

 Now is the time to plan for Election Day class cancellation at your school

If you’re a law student who wants to ramp up a class cancellation effort at your school, ACS offers a blueprint for how to do so and stands ready to offer advice and assistance if needed.

In a time of democratic turmoil, fair elections are more important than ever. Now is the time to get involved!  Elections are difficult for government officials to administer and complicated for voters to navigate. With their robust social energy, knowledge of the law, and understanding of democracy, law students add tremendous value as poll workers, election officials, and voter protection volunteers. Law schools can and should lead the way in fostering the civic participation necessary to a healthy democracy. We hope you will join this groundbreaking effort to increase civic engagement by law schools and establish Election Day as a national priority. Please consider starting a class cancellation campaign at your school today!

 

Democracy and Voting, Voting Rights