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New, Pro Bono Legal Defense Network Hopes to Aid Harried Election Officials

September 8, 2021 by Dan McCue
Recount observers, at left, watch as election workers verify ballots in Milwaukee on Nov. 20. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

The temptation is to liken them to the undeterable posse that pursed Robert Redford and Paul Newman to the end of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

“Who are those guys?” Butch asks so often toward the closing credits of the 1969 film that it becomes almost a mantra.

But in this case, the guys in question need an introduction in only the most isolated of circumstances. 

Benjamin Ginsberg, a GOP election lawyer who helped George W. Bush beat back former Vice President Al Gore’s challenge in the Florida recount of 2000, is now a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Meanwhile Bob Bauer, White House counsel during the Obama administration, is a professor at the New York University School of Law. 

But it is what they are doing together that brings the image of that classic movie to mind. On Wednesday, they announced they are co-chairs of the newly formed Election Official Legal Defense Network.

Founded in collaboration with the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research, the network will provide election officials from both parties with legal advice and representation to deal with harassment stemming from Donald Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election and new state laws that restrict their authority.

“Election officials face an increasing wave of state laws subjecting them to criminal penalties for performing their professional duties, while at the same time facing threats of violence to themselves and their families,” Bauer and Ginsberg said in a joint statement, along with David Becker, director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. 

This comes in the wake of the 2020 election and its aftermath, despite that election being the most secure and transparent election in American history, with record turnout, during a global pandemic,” they continued. 

“These attacks on election officials, the referees in democracy, must be fought and election officials need to know they are not alone. The Election Officials Legal Defense Network will provide these public servants with the advice and protection they need, at no cost,” they said.

Ginsberg and Bauer previously worked together in 2013 as co-chairs of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which released a much-anticipated report in January 2014  on how to remove barriers to voting.

“The two of us have been partisan opponents in the past, representing opposing political parties to the best of our abilities,” the attorneys wrote in an op-ed that appeared in today’s Washington Post. “But at this moment in time, we share a grave concern about attacks on those public servants who successfully oversaw what was arguably the most secure and transparent election in our country’s history, with record turnout, during a global pandemic. If such attacks go unaddressed, our system of self-governance will suffer long-term damage.”

Bauer and Ginsberg reiterated that services offered through the Election Official Legal Defense Network will be available regardless of the officials’ political affiliation or whether they work in a red state or a blue state. 

“We already have lawyers committed to provide this volunteer support, and we are recruiting more,” they wrote. “As co-chairs, we will be supported by a bipartisan advisory board of experienced state and local election officials of both parties, from across the nation. The response from these officials has been extraordinary and gratifying.

“Any American — whether Republican, Democrat or independent — must know that systematic efforts to undermine the ability of those overseeing the counting and casting of ballots on an independent, nonpartisan basis are destructive to our democracy,” Ginsberg and Bauer said in their op-ed.

State and local election workers anywhere in the country can go to EOLDN.org, or call the toll-free number (877) 313-5210, at any time, 24/7, to request to be connected with a lawyer who can help them.

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