Interview with Chris Burks, Pulaski County Election Commissioner

Today, I’m interviewing Chris Burks, the newly elected Pulaski County Election Commissioner. Chris always makes me feel bad that I’m not more involved (I mean, he doesn’t put a guilt trip on me or anything, just watching everything he does makes me feel bad for not being more involved). Chris is a great example of how young attorneys can make a big difference.
I clerked with Chris in Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy County. It really was fun! Anyway, Chris wasn’t content with just clerking. He started writing a column for the Conway paper and got really involved in the local political scene within weeks of moving there. Following his clerkship with Judge Wood, Chris clerked with Judge Susan Hickey. Chris is now an attorney here in Pulaski County at the Sanford Law Firm. His wife, Haley (whom I have also had the pleasure to clerk with) is an attorney at the Rose Firm.
But, I asked Chris for an interview because he was recently elected to be a Pulaski County Election Commissioner. Without further ado…
HLB:  Chris, you’re a young lawyer and you were recently elected to be an Election Commissioner.  Some people may wonder; what exactly is an Election Commissioner anyway?  Should attorneys and voters care?  
CB: Thank you for asking and great blawg, by the way.  Commissioners sit on County Election Commissions.  Each of our 75 Arkansas counties have Election Commissions, and the Commissions are charged with overseeing elections in their respective Arkansas county.
Here is a link to some of the basic duties of Election Commissions:
HLB:  So, I see that the Election Commissions oversee recounts, is that the only exciting part of the position?  As in Bush vs. Gore 2000 Florida recount exciting?
CB:  Well, knock on wood, something like the Bush v. Gore situation is very, very unlikely to happen here.
The Pulaski County Election Commission staff is incredibly professional and works hard year round.  My main goals as a Commissioner are to do my job and ensure that:
1) The Commission stays out of Court and follows all applicable laws, regulations and procedures.
2) Voter trust remains high.
HLB: So this sounds all well and good, but why should attorneys really care?  Isn’t election administration and law a pretty esoteric area of law?
CB:  I’ll admit it easy to be cynical or turned off by politics and elections.  I really do get that.  At the same time, I think attorneys, whatever our flaws may be, we have some skills.  And I genuinely believe that, historically, an integral part of our profession is using what we’ve been taught in service of others.  So I think all attorneys, be it in the form of pro bono work, community service, or working in government, truly can contribute to the common good in our own unique way.
HLB:  So what should we look for in the upcoming elections?
CB:  As a Commissioner I’ll be busy certifying results on election nights and have to be neutral in all ways.  I will add that raising awareness about the work of the Commission, and the voting process in general, is something I’ll continue to plug.  It may sound cliche, but what many call America’s great experiment, representative democracy, continues.  While not perfect, it will certainly falter without citizen engagement and, in my opinion, not be as strong without each generation of attorneys doing their part.
Thanks for the interview Chris, and I will look forward to seeing you at the polls!
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