A Zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to the event.
Co-sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Studies
The Covid-19 pandemic poses myriad threats to the safety, security, and fairness of the forthcoming US elections. While the social isolation and unremitting digitality of the moment has created new challenges for both campaigning and getting out the vote, the failure to contain the viral outbreak has stoked acute concerns about the dangers of in-person voting. Civil rights advocates and elections watch dogs are on high alert about how these historic circumstances may abet traditional forms of voter suppression, including the purging of voter rolls, limiting access to ballots, relocating or closing polling centers, and other means of selective disenfranchisement. Trump's efforts to discredit mail-in ballots — the only viable alternative to in-person voting — coupled with his repeated threats to cut federal funding for the US Postal Service in the lead up to the election, have distressed both his allies and enemies. Technologists, meanwhile, warn that the migration of voter registration to online platforms is rife with vulnerabilities, cautioning that Russian hackers have devised stealthier, less traceable interference tactics, and that their activity is surging. Ever since the Wisconsin primary, pundits have predicted a contested election, suggesting that the final outcome of the election will most likely be determined by the judiciary — that the courts will be left to decide the will of the people. All of this indicates that the precariousness of the forthcoming election is consequential for the future of democracy in the United States.
In this Matrix On Point, panelists will discuss the way the pandemic is contributing to efforts to suppress and intimidate voters, the changing dynamics of virtual campaigning and voter outreach, the insecurities of online voter registration, and attempts to undermine absentee voting either through disinformation or the under-resourcing of the US Postal Service, among other issues.
Henry Farrell is the SNF Agora Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the 2019 recipient of the Friedrich Schiedel Prize for Politics and Technology. His book, with Abraham Newman, Of Privacy and Power: The Transatlantic Fight over Freedom and Security was the winner of the 2019 Chicago-Kent College of Law / Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize, the 2020 ISA-ICOMM Award, and one of Foreign Affairs’ Best Books of 2019. He also serves as Editor in Chief of the Monkey Cage blog at the Washington Post.
Bridgett A. King is Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Public Administration Program at Auburn University. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in state institutions and policy, public policy, and diversity in public administration. Her research focuses on political participation, voter disenfranchisement, and citizen perceptions of the electoral system. Formerly a voting rights researcher in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, she contributes regularly to the Election Center Certified Election/Registration Administration Program (CERA).
Daniel Laurison is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College. He is interested in politics, inequality, and the way social position shapes how people understand and relate to the social world, especially with regard to politics & inequality. His publications include The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to Be Privileged (2019), co-authored with Sam Friedman, and The Room Where it Happens (forthcoming in 2022), which focuses on the role of campaign professionals and political consultants in shaping American politics. He is also interested in political participation and engagement, and has launched a new study tentatively called the Pennsylvania Participation Project. He earned his PhD in Sociology at UC Berkeley.
Catherine Meza serves as Senior Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”), where she litigates voting rights cases. Catherine is counsel in Harding v. Edwards, where, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal district court granted a preliminary injunction expanding early voting for all Louisiana voters and extending access to absentee mail-in voting for voters most susceptible to the risks imposed by COVID-19. She also represented plaintiffs in Alabama State Conference of the NAACP v. Pleasant Grove, where a settlement in which the City of Pleasant Grove, Alabama, changed its method of electing its city council from at-large to cumulative voting resulted in the first elected-Black city council members in the city’s history. Prior to joining LDF, Catherine served as a Trial Attorney in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, where she investigated and litigated matters concerning federal voting rights laws.
Bertrall Ross, Chancellor's Professor of Law at Berkeley Law, will moderate the panel. His research interests are driven by a normative concern about democratic responsiveness and a methodological approach that integrates political theory and empirical social science into discussions of legal doctrine, the institutional role of courts, and democratic design. In the area of legislation, his current research seeks to address how courts should reconcile legislative supremacy with the vexing problem of interpreting statutes in contexts not foreseen by the enacting legislature. In election law, he is examining the constitutional dimensions and the structural sources of the marginalization of the poor in the American political process.