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My name is Lee Buoy and I am a Senior Customer Success Manager here at Quorum, working with our clients as a strategic advisor on a number of our products, including grassroots advocacy, stakeholder engagement, federal. And some international as well. In terms of my background before working at Quorum, I was in the nonprofit space, both at a tech company where we'd built software for nonprofits. And I also spent a few years working at the YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. Very excited to be leading this session today with our dynamite speakers. So as I've mentioned already today, we'll be discussing democracy and civic participation. This session was initially built as a Civil Rights Deep Dive, but given our speaker's expertise, we figured we would take a more narrow lane of democracy and civic participation. So as I read our speaker's bio that I think you'll see that we have a stacked lineup for this conversation. So I'll start with Jessica Jones Capparrell and so Jessica is the Director of Government Affairs at the League of Women Voters of the United States. Jessica manages relationships and strategic planning for federal legislation and lobbying that benefit the organization. The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. So thanks for being with us today. Next up we have Demelza Baer and Demelza is the Director of Public Policy for the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights under law, where she is responsible for leading and coordinating advocacy before federal state and local legislative bodies and executive agencies, overseeing policy research and reports, and managing the policy team. And last, but certainly not least we have Devin Hankerson. Madrigal. DeVan is the Center for Democracy and Technologies' Research Manager and an advocate for improving technology access to expand individual rights and ensuring that more people share in the benefits of technological progress. At CDT DeVan joins a research team focused on advancing human rights and civil liberties online. Thank you all for being here. And I'll just go ahead and dive into our questions here. So my first question is for Jessica. Can you share why the League of Women Voters puts so much of an emphasis on informed and active participation in government? Jessica Jones Capparell: Sure. Thanks so much, Lee, and thanks so much for having me excited to be here with all these panelists. So the league of women voters is it's an organization that's 101 years old. And it's pretty rare. We are an organization founded out of the suffrage movement, founded right before the 19th amendment was passed in Congress and then ratified by the states. The founders of our organization really started to even, we were founded like, started to look at how we have all of these new voters. You have all these women voters now, how do we make sure that they vote and they make informed decisions? Our civic participation really goes back to our founding. We know that if we have voters who are informed and who are voting based on issues that we have a better chance and a better representative of democracy. So what the league strives to do is to provide voters with information through vote 411 which is our one-stop-shop. Website for all of your voting needs you can find out what the candidates want or what they, how they feel about things. You can find out what you need to take with you when you need to vote, where your polling location is. All of that good fun. And then on the flip side of that, we also work to take public policy positions that are derived from our members and also influence lawmakers once they get there. And then engage people year-round so they're not just engaged in elections. They're also engaged in the activities of our government because we know that the more engaged voters are in elections and outside of elections, the better representatives our democracy is for everyone. Lee Buoy: So awesome. What important work that you're doing. And I think we could all stand to be a little bit more, maybe not us on this call as policy wonks participating in Wonk Week, but like most voters could stand to be a little bit more informed. So that is awesome. So my next question here is for Demelza. Can you give us a brief overview of your work at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Demelza Baer: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me here. I'm very excited to be joining you all. My name is Demelza Baer I'm the Director of Public Policy at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. And the Lawyer's Committee was also found quite some time ago and was founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy, who really wanted to mobilize the resources of the private bar to combat racial discrimination. And really, since our founding voting has been at the heart of a lot of the Lawyers Committee's work. Way back when the Voting Rights Act was first being considered in 1965, we were there fighting for it to be enacted. And since that time we've continued to engage in a lot of policy advocacy in the legislatures, in the courts, litigation to protect the right to vote under both federal and state law. And we also have for now nearly 20 years, been the national coordinator of election protection across the country, working with a huge number of state and local organizations, and we run the 1 8, 6, our vote hotline during elections. So this may be an off here, but if you are in Virginia or New Jersey this year, please don't forget to give us a call on that line if you have any issues registering to vote or actually voting. But beyond voting rights, which we do consider a cornerstone right for our democracy, the Lawyers Committee works across civil rights on a number of issues including fair housing, economic justice, criminal justice reform, digital justice, and privacy. Tackling hate crimes. So really the full range of issues we work on at the federal and state. Lee Buoy: Awesome again, very important work. I'm sure you all have been very busy the last couple of years, but particularly in the last year or so. And last but not least, Demelza can you explain can you share a little bit more about your work at the Center for Democracy and Tech? DeVan Hankerson: I think you've met Devin, but that's okay. Unless Demelza is also working which would be fine. You sound amazing. No, but my name is Devin Hankerson Madrigal, and I'm Research Manager at the Center for Democracy and Technology known as CDT. CDT is a 25-year-old technology policy organization that focuses on the societal impacts of technology on civil rights, civil liberties, and democratic institutions. Our work addresses questions such as the discriminatory uses of data, the use of technology by law enforcement, and how social media platforms impact democratic discourse. We are an advocacy organization as well, and we operate six distinct policy teams to include security and surveillance equity and civic, tech, privacy, and data. The research team, obviously the elections team, and some others. But I think we want to get to some of the questions. So I'll pause there to move things forward. Or I can talk a little bit more about what we've been focusing on, which is on my team, which is more specific to disinformation, which I think we'll probably get to a little bit later. But wanted to give space for some other questions in case you had those. Lee Buoy: Okay, perfect. Yeah. Would love to cover that later and thank you for sharing. And so next question here for Demelza actually Demelza this time. Can you explain the implications of the Shelby County vs. Holder decision and what can policymakers do to respond? Demelza Baer: Sure. So back in 2013, which seems like quite a while ago, now the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act saying that it was outdated and not based on current conditions but inviting Congress to create a new coverage formula. For anyone who's not familiar with Section Five, it's the provision of the Voting Rights act that's really at the heart of it that required states and jurisdictions with the history of voting discrimination to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws or practices with either the US Department of Justice or a federal court. This was really a game-changer for our democracy because it protected the right to vote for black voters and other voters of color before an election by blocking discriminatory laws and practices before they want them to affect. Prior to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, discriminatory laws would prevent voters of color from participating in an election before litigation could actually result in the law being struck down. But since Congress has not yet enacted a new coverage formula, Section Five has been dormant since 2013. And that means that states, cities, and municipalities have been able to enact voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color people with disabilities, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, young people, and senior citizens to vote. And this year, in particular, we've seen a rash of voter suppression laws enacted and introduced across the country. So it's even more important that the federal government fulfill its role as the bulwark against threats to our democracy and political participation and to ensure that a person's fundamental right to vote does not depend on where they live. That rather is a basic civic right that everyone can rely on. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was recently introduced in the Senate. Can you explain what's in the bill and why your team has identified it as a priority? Demelza Baer: So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act recently passed the House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate. It's a priority for many reasons. Indeed. It's a bill that we really vitally need to protect and maintain our democracy. First and foremost, it restores Section Five of the Voting Rights Act by creating a new coverage formula that applies to all states and requires a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the previous 25 years so that only states with a recent history of racial discrimination in voting laws or practices are covered. However for a state or jurisdiction that doesn't have violations within a certain period of time and has a positive record with no violations, then they would no longer be covered by pre-clearance. So this is a coverage formula that responds directly to the Supreme Court's Shelby County decision by ensuring that the formula is responsive to current conditions. And in addition to restoring Section Five preclearance, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also strengthens Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which applies nationally regardless of jurisdiction's history. This year again, we had a bad Supreme Court decision. The decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee ultimately resulted in making it more difficult for lawyers to bring Section Two claims to vindicate voting discrimination. And again, just for anyone who's not familiar with Section Two versus Section Five, Section Two claims provide protection for voters against both vote dilution, which are schemes that reduce the weight of the voting power of people of color, and vote denial claims, which are standards or procedures that impede people of color from casting votes are having their votes counted. So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act both strengthened Section Two, and it would also implement a retrogression standard under Section Two, that would protect voters of color from any policy change that would make them worse off than before that change in policy or procedures. So it's really a very fundamental law that we really desperately need to be passed. It's been nearly a decade without Section Five, and it really is a moment where for our democracy, we fundamentally need this law to become, to actually be enacted by Congress. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. We'll see if they can pull it off in the Senate. And so back over to you DeVan, so you touched on this a little bit earlier, but as social media usage in the US has grown we've also seen a rise in disinformation. So why is it important that focus on disinformation and who does it mostly affect? DeVan Hankerson: Well given the threat of harm, the threats of harm, to domestic efforts to build an inclusive democracy and to public health in the case of coronavirus disinformation, the problem of online disinformation diminishes trust in democratic institutions and threatens the very fabric of democracy itself. I'll just add that earlier this year, we released a paper faxing and their discontents a research agenda for disinformation, race, and gender. Which addresses the gaps in our understanding about the links between race, gender, and the spread of disinformation, rather racist, misogynistic narratives, and the spread of disinformation. The goal of this work was to outline the areas of exploration for traditional research organizations to undertake. It's important that research about online disinformation focuses on the pattern and impacts of misinformation and disinformation on women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, and that the approach be an intersectional one. So understanding impacts, for example, on LGBTQ women of color, for example. CDT is also developing will work in this area, which will be a robust examination of the impacts of this information specifically on political candidates running for elected office, who are women of color. Existing research in this area shows a very pronounced pattern of gender disinformation campaigns, targeting women, politicians from racial, ethnic, religious, or other minoritized groups. CDT is also working on issues around election-related disinformation. My team, the research team, and the elections team headed up by Will Adler, our Senior Technologists on Elections and Democracy. We'll be releasing a report that looks at election disinformation from an international perspective actually. We know, for example, that the deployment of false narratives around election security specifically has undermined faith in the democratic process and spawn webs of conspiracy theories. And this is a global trend. This project, the one on election-related disinformation, will focus on some of the ways to improve federal and state coordination to fight election disinformation. And then more to your question about why it's important to focus on it. But I think I covered it there. We know that we need to understand a little bit more about how online disinformation translates into offline harm. And we know that more of these are being propelled or shaped by narratives that are first seen in disinformation campaigns. January 6th insurrection is one example of this. We also need to understand more how disinformation leverages false narratives that may help us improve our efforts to combat online disinformation. And there are also, of course, the suppressive impacts of disinformation, on civic engagement. For example, as I mentioned, this gender disinformation, which are campaigns that promote this narrative, that women are not good political leaders. And they often aim to undermine women by spreading false information about their qualifications, their experience, and their intelligence, sometimes using sexualized imagery as part of their tactics. And on the question of who it affects most, I think in a word that affects us all mostly. The impacts of disinformation are abroad because it has influenced people's trust in democratic institutions. And as I mentioned, January 6th attack from the US Capitol demonstrated how online disinformation can have severe offline consequences. Disinformation researchers who've worked in this area also have found that mommy and travel blogger personalities on social media, for example, were being mobilized as political nano influencers paid for digital campaign communications sometimes pushing this information from their platform. And as we know broadly speaking, the 2016 Russian-based internet research agencies, campaign targeted conservatives and progressives and people of color on Twitter. And that includes a rather large swath of the American citizenry wouldn't you say? Yeah, absolutely. Lee Buoy: And what measures can policymakers to take to combat this dissemination? DeVan Hankerson: Sure. So I'll spend some of the work of our elections team here. And of course our research on disinformation is in gender and our upcoming work on women of color in politics, which employs some of these strategies. One is to raise public awareness about the relationship between mis and disinformation and voter supression. Empower voters and reporters to demand a factual basis for information in public spheres impacting democratic participation, including on social media. Second increase the ability of under-resourced and underfunded elections officials to respond to disinformation, or even get out ahead of it by educating voters about how elections really work. Third explore opportunities to address the issue by improving coordination among stakeholders fighting disinformation and by building support for disinformation research that explicates the impacts of disinformation across race and gender. And as I mentioned earlier, CDT is already conducting research in this area, but we need other research institutions to also comprehensively assess the disparate impacts of disinformation, particularly among women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, groups that historically have been denied the rights and opportunities to fully participate in US democracy. Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, very important. And hopefully we'll see some of those changes be implemented sooner rather than later now over to you, Jessica. So if you weren't spending your time fighting voter suppression right now, what other initiatives would you focus on to expand active participation in government. I don't want to do anything else. So I will say, the league does support bills the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement, act, which Demelza talked about already and the Freedom to Vote Act, and we're also actively pushing against the 400 or so anti voter bills that were introduced across the country, but we're also working to support pro voter reform bills, which are also introduced around the country, like the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act, and over 900 actually pieces of legislation addressing those pieces across the country. And kind of hand-in-hand we're also working on redistricting and gerrymandering which I think is a form of voter suppression. So not exactly addressing your question. But we know that people powered fair maps, which is an initiative that the league is running and redistricting in particular. And if we give people the power to draw the maps, if we give people the power to pick their politicians, instead of the other way around, we can have a more representative society. And some of the provisions in the national legislation and some of the great reforms across the country in recent years have actually helped to make redistricting more transparent to make sure that there's a direct connection between voters and those who are drawing the maps, they, we know that there's opportunities formap drawers, whether it be the legislatures, which controls most of redistricting around the country or some independent redistricting commission, they're establishing criteria, that account for our communities of interest that cannot account for our minorities, that account for making sure that voters are represented and that there's more power for normal everyday people in Congress and in legislatures and even on down to like things like school boards and county commission. And a lot of that is also like DeVan said, fighting, mis and disinformation as well, and ensuring that there's transparency in the process, that people have the right information and good information to make informed decisions, and that they can they can talk to their legislators about what their community looks like and how it should be included in a map rather than other things like considering incumbent addresses and just considering where politicians live, actually considering the people and then makeup of communities around the country. So we have fair maps, we have better representation. And then we have better lawmakers and legislators who represent the needs of their constituent. Lee Buoy: Yeah. I remember learning about gerrymandering, like in government classes in school, but I don't think it ever really hit me that it was still a thing until my work at Quorum and really us having the data on those maps and seeing how some of them are, some of those districts are just really crazily drawn. Now I'll say it so very important work there. And now we will open this up to a Q and A from the audience. So feel free to put your questions in the chat and we will try to cover as many as we can in the about 30 minutes that we have left. And so do you all expect there to be any bipartisan action on voting rights? And so I'll say let's start with Jessica and then we can anyone else who wants to chime in Jessica Jones Capparell: can. I'm an incredibly optimistic person. I'm still hopeful that we will find bipartisan agreement somewhere in Congress on voting rights legislation. And, there've been a lot of, one thing that we know is that good reforms come from the states and come up into Congress as we have seen some, bipartisan good things happening in states around, around the country. I don't, I stopped using my crystal ball around the this it's a little fuzzy right now. I do think that there's a good, we have good legislation on the table especially in Congress and that there's a lot of efforts especially from Senator Manchin to bring more Republicans onto the key pieces of legislation that we have been talking about today. So I'm always hopeful. But it'll, it's gonna take a lot of effort and it's going to take, it's gonna take a lot of people coming together to do good for the American people to get there. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. Anything to add there. Demelza Baer: Yeah. So like Jessica, I'm also optimistic. I think that it's really a shame that voting rights have become politicized because, just to put this in some historical perspective, just only back in like 2006, when the voting rights act was last reauthorized, it was championed by President George W. Bush. It was passed. It passed the US Senate 98 to zero. That means that a lot of Republican senators who are still in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell voted to and express strong support for reauthorizing, the Voting Rights Act. It passed the House of Representatives by overwhelming majority. So I'm also optimistic. I think that voting rights are a fundamental right, that we all have to participate in democracy. And it's essential that we protect them. It's not a partisan political issue. And I think just in terms of specific hope, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is a Republican from Alaska has been on record with supporting recent versions of the Voting Rights Advancement act, which is now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And so I have some optimism that we might see some concrete support from her. And there's other Republican senators who I think are listening to their constituents in their, in the states who maybe aren't currently a co-sponsor, but maybe would be interested down the road if they hear from their constituents and other groups in their state about how important it is. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And DeVan anything to chime in on there? DeVan Hankerson: No, I think they've pretty much covered it. Lee Buoy: Perfect. This next one we can definitely start with you DeVan and so how do we, as people fight this information with an added note that I'm really asking if I should fight with my dad on Facebook. So I would love to hear your thoughts. DeVan Hankerson: As individuals, I think, fighting with your relatives on Facebook is probably not the best way. I know that there've been some resource, essentially that pointed out that just handing somebody some accurate piece of information isn't exactly effective. But I would say that there needs to be a lot more systemic attention to this issue because it's not just an individual problem. It's something that is at the platform level. It's something that state legislators, federal legislators can take action on. And at the individual level, I'm sure, send send credible information to your family members and try to engage them with that information. Point them to sources that provide consistent, accurate, credible authoritative information. And I would say that's probably at the level of the individual. But I'm pretty sure that there are likely to be advocacy campaigns asking for you to amplify the issue with your representative. So I think when those come around, that's definitely an opportunity as an individual to apply some pressure on your representatives around those issues. Lee Buoy: Perfect. Now I just got another question here. So do you all expect mail-in voting to stay? So I'm sure everyone on the call knows we had a lot of mail-in voting laws enacted or just policy changes during the last election due to the pandemic. And so do you all expect that to stay around post pandemic? Jessica Jones Capparell: I can go first. I think so. Yes. Mail-in voting, isn't something that's new or just came about in the 2020 election. You have several states that do it, do only mail-in voting Colorado, Oregon. There are a couple of others who just do mail-in voting and they've made those systems work really well. And then we've always had absentee voting. The, I think the difference with the 2020 election is we are in the middle of a pandemic and people needed a safe option to vote from their home and, not risk their health and their safety. So I do expect that mail and voting to continue and to grow and, it's just about making sure safe and accessible for everyone who wants to do it. And then really if people have the opportunity to vote in the way that they want to do, and if they want to do it by mail-in, they can, but if they also want to go to the polls they can do that as well or vote early. But I do think mail-in voting will stay. Demelza Baer: The only thing I would add to Jessica's pretty excellent summary is that there are, obviously some federal bills that are attempting to provide a minimum federal baseline protection for having no excuse absentee voting by mail and a certain number of early voting days. I think there are some states you really see that the states that have the best policies in terms of having a good number of early voting days and having no excuse absentee voting by mail tend to have the highest voter participation and states with same day voter registration. So really you see a really direct connection, regardless of, there's a lot of very diverse states who don't have a lot in common with each other, but what they do have in common is really voter forward laws in terms of both registering to vote and casting a ballot. And so I think that what, some of the things we've been working on at the federal level are bills that would create a a minimum federal baseline standard in terms of having a certain number of early voting days, having no excuse absentee voting, and I think you see those provisions in bills like the, For the People Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Lee Buoy: Awesome. And I'm just throwing this question in. DeVan do you feel that disinformation is a part of getting these things done? So for example, someone may not trust mail in voting based on disinformation that they've seen online. Do you feel in order to get the American public on board with mail-in voting to convince some of those lawmakers, those Republican lawmakers who Demelza mentioned may change their mind depending on what they hear from their constituents. Do you feel like disinformation is a big part of that and making sure that their constituents aren't not supporting this because of disinformation that they've seen online? DeVan Hankerson: Yes. I think that a lot of election disinformation impact how people access electoral information. And I think I mentioned in one of the ways that policymakers that could combat this information is to really think about how to send more resources to underfunded election officials so that they have the ability to respond to disinformation or to even try to get out ahead of it before it happens by educating voters about how elections really work and that includes mail-in voting, absentee voting, those kinds of mechanisms. I think it really is in some cases about providing multiple sources of credible authoritative information. And allowing the American people to be able to turn to a local elections entity for that authoritative credible information, they would have provided, ahead of time and on a consistent basis as well. Just to add quickly. I think that part of what we've seen, at least in our research and not just in English, but also in a non-English language is that there's an absence of credible authoritative information that's being disseminated to the public in a consistent fashion. And we've seen that become a problem, obviously in non-English language communities. Lee Buoy: Okay. And we do have another question from the chat. So as an Australian, I'm always surprised by how few people vote in America. Can you imagine enacting compulsory voting? And so let's start with, Demelza. Demelza Baer: Thank you. So I, what's interesting about that question is that I think that for some elections, we do have lower participation rates, but if you look at really a lot of the communities on behalf of which we advocate, people of color, women, people with disabilities, young people, senior citizens, Native Americans, and Alaska natives there are so many barriers to vote right now. There are so many barriers to register. There are so many barriers to actually cast a ballot, and there's a lot of people who have to take time off from work, and maybe that's a barrier. Maybe they have childcare issues. So I think that before we, we went to compulsory, I think if we had nationwide election day was a federal holiday and we had certain minimum protections, like no excuse absentee voting by mail for everyone and a certain number of early voting days I think our voter participation rate would be through the roof if we removed a lot of these barriers to voting. Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, absolutely say the biggest barrier. I agree with Demelza a hundred percent. I think the biggest barrier we know to voting is actually making sure that you're registered to vote. So in addition to universal, no-excuse absentee, having same-day registration where voters can go to the polls register and cast regular ballots at the same time is really important. There are other things like automatic voter registration, where if you interact with the DMV or other agency they'll automatically register you to vote unless you tell them you don't want to be. Making sure that people can change and update their registration or initiate their registration online is also very important. Removing the key barrier which is just registering I think we'd see a huge amount of participation as well. Lee Buoy: Now I have another question here. Do you expect voter participation to go down after Trump? So we can start with Jessica this time. Jessica Jones Capparell: Okay. Let me preface this by saying the League is a non-partisan organization. I think that there is a huge focus on politics and on the issues that affect us more so than any other time, whether it be because of the former president or the current president or the current state of Congress. And I think that voter participation is going to continue to increase because people know that they have to make their voices heard and the best way to do that is to vote. So I anticipate for our participation to continue to go up, not because of President Trump, but just because of the amount of engagement that people and engagement in I can't find the word. Just that amount of like engagement and emphasis that they want to have on whatever on all the things that are going on around them. Demelza Baer: I would echo Jessica's thoughts and just that right now, we're in a, we're in a once in a 100 years global pandemic where we're dealing with huge structural changes in our economy we're dealing with issues of police, accountability that has not been resolved through federal legislation. We're dealing with challenges to the right to vote across the country. There are so many challenges that right now our country is dealing with, including not having address comprehensive immigration reform in decades. There are so many issues that people care about, which affect them, their families, their neighbors, their communities, that I think that we're going to continue to see pretty high engagement as long as. People are willing to keep pushing to overcome though the barriers that have been placed in their way, in terms of voting. We saw that last year where there were millions of people who risk their own health to vote during the pandemic in person when they didn't have other options. And so I just think that we all want to work to get to the place where people don't have to risk their health or wellbeing or their job or not, knowing who they can leave their child with in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Lee Buoy: Okay. Perfect. And anything else to add there? DeVan Hankerson: Sorry. I think I turned off my video by mistake. I don't know if I can add anything. So from a legal perspective, my opinion is more informed by my personal views. So I'll just say that. I definitely don't think that voting participation is going to go down. And I would echo some of what Jessica said, which is that people are really much more aware of the influence that their vote, has on the lives that they live. And I don't think that you can roll that back. I don't think that you can like, what is it uncork, the cork, the wine or whatever? And so I think that will continue to I think that the voter participation will continue to grow. And really, I think it's a reflection of my optimism about the impact of all of the work that we're doing on that, it will have some greater influence. And I think that there are a lot of smart people working on this issue and it has to make sense. Awesome. Lee Buoy: And speaking of smart people working on this issue let's go on to the final question that we'll have from the audience which is which legislators in the federal government are leading the way on these voting rights protections and things like that? So let's start with Demelza. Demelza Baer: So there's there's a number of folks in the Senate who've been working on some of the bills we've been talking about. Senator Leahy has been a champion,Senator Durbin, Senator Warnock from Georgia, Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota has been a champion, especially on a lot of the election access issues. Senator Manchin as Jessica mentioned, has been working to try to build bipartisan support. And we have seen, Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a champion of the Native American Voting rights Act and a really strong supporter and may show support on some other bills potentially. And then, in the House, Representative Jerry Nadler has been a champion for these bills as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. And there's a number of other members and also giving a lot of credit to the Congressional Black Caucus and the house numbers, particularly who have been champions. And there are members who were just always stalwart champions on voting rights and civil rights, like Representative Karen Bass. Jessica Jones Capparell: Also add Congressman John Sarbanes from Maryland has been a leader in the House. And Congresswoman Terri Sewell from Alabama has been leading the charge on the voting Rights Advancement Act in the House now for years. So those are great. And I also would end on the point, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized, as Demelza talked about it a little bit earlier with bipartisan support every single time, both in the White House and in Congress. And so there are a lot more opportunities for more people to come on board and to get behind some really great legislation that would end discrimination in voting and set national standards for voting around. Awesome. And any other names to add there? DeVan? No, I think I think Jessica and Demelza covered a lot of them. [post_title] => Democracy and Civil Participation Deep Dive [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => democracy-civil-participation-deep-dive [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-14 14:23:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-14 14:23:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5781 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 5781 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'democracy-civil-participation-deep-dive' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5781 [post_author] => 12 [post_date] => 2021-10-14 14:22:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-14 14:22:35 [post_content] => Lee Buoy: Hi everyone and welcome to our session on democracy and civic participation. My name is Lee Buoy and I am a Senior Customer Success Manager here at Quorum, working with our clients as a strategic advisor on a number of our products, including grassroots advocacy, stakeholder engagement, federal. And some international as well. In terms of my background before working at Quorum, I was in the nonprofit space, both at a tech company where we'd built software for nonprofits. And I also spent a few years working at the YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. Very excited to be leading this session today with our dynamite speakers. So as I've mentioned already today, we'll be discussing democracy and civic participation. This session was initially built as a Civil Rights Deep Dive, but given our speaker's expertise, we figured we would take a more narrow lane of democracy and civic participation. So as I read our speaker's bio that I think you'll see that we have a stacked lineup for this conversation. So I'll start with Jessica Jones Capparrell and so Jessica is the Director of Government Affairs at the League of Women Voters of the United States. Jessica manages relationships and strategic planning for federal legislation and lobbying that benefit the organization. The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. So thanks for being with us today. Next up we have Demelza Baer and Demelza is the Director of Public Policy for the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights under law, where she is responsible for leading and coordinating advocacy before federal state and local legislative bodies and executive agencies, overseeing policy research and reports, and managing the policy team. And last, but certainly not least we have Devin Hankerson. Madrigal. DeVan is the Center for Democracy and Technologies' Research Manager and an advocate for improving technology access to expand individual rights and ensuring that more people share in the benefits of technological progress. At CDT DeVan joins a research team focused on advancing human rights and civil liberties online. Thank you all for being here. And I'll just go ahead and dive into our questions here. So my first question is for Jessica. Can you share why the League of Women Voters puts so much of an emphasis on informed and active participation in government? Jessica Jones Capparell: Sure. Thanks so much, Lee, and thanks so much for having me excited to be here with all these panelists. So the league of women voters is it's an organization that's 101 years old. And it's pretty rare. We are an organization founded out of the suffrage movement, founded right before the 19th amendment was passed in Congress and then ratified by the states. The founders of our organization really started to even, we were founded like, started to look at how we have all of these new voters. You have all these women voters now, how do we make sure that they vote and they make informed decisions? Our civic participation really goes back to our founding. We know that if we have voters who are informed and who are voting based on issues that we have a better chance and a better representative of democracy. So what the league strives to do is to provide voters with information through vote 411 which is our one-stop-shop. Website for all of your voting needs you can find out what the candidates want or what they, how they feel about things. You can find out what you need to take with you when you need to vote, where your polling location is. All of that good fun. And then on the flip side of that, we also work to take public policy positions that are derived from our members and also influence lawmakers once they get there. And then engage people year-round so they're not just engaged in elections. They're also engaged in the activities of our government because we know that the more engaged voters are in elections and outside of elections, the better representatives our democracy is for everyone. Lee Buoy: So awesome. What important work that you're doing. And I think we could all stand to be a little bit more, maybe not us on this call as policy wonks participating in Wonk Week, but like most voters could stand to be a little bit more informed. So that is awesome. So my next question here is for Demelza. Can you give us a brief overview of your work at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Demelza Baer: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me here. I'm very excited to be joining you all. My name is Demelza Baer I'm the Director of Public Policy at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. And the Lawyer's Committee was also found quite some time ago and was founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy, who really wanted to mobilize the resources of the private bar to combat racial discrimination. And really, since our founding voting has been at the heart of a lot of the Lawyers Committee's work. Way back when the Voting Rights Act was first being considered in 1965, we were there fighting for it to be enacted. And since that time we've continued to engage in a lot of policy advocacy in the legislatures, in the courts, litigation to protect the right to vote under both federal and state law. And we also have for now nearly 20 years, been the national coordinator of election protection across the country, working with a huge number of state and local organizations, and we run the 1 8, 6, our vote hotline during elections. So this may be an off here, but if you are in Virginia or New Jersey this year, please don't forget to give us a call on that line if you have any issues registering to vote or actually voting. But beyond voting rights, which we do consider a cornerstone right for our democracy, the Lawyers Committee works across civil rights on a number of issues including fair housing, economic justice, criminal justice reform, digital justice, and privacy. Tackling hate crimes. So really the full range of issues we work on at the federal and state. Lee Buoy: Awesome again, very important work. I'm sure you all have been very busy the last couple of years, but particularly in the last year or so. And last but not least, Demelza can you explain can you share a little bit more about your work at the Center for Democracy and Tech? DeVan Hankerson: I think you've met Devin, but that's okay. Unless Demelza is also working which would be fine. You sound amazing. No, but my name is Devin Hankerson Madrigal, and I'm Research Manager at the Center for Democracy and Technology known as CDT. CDT is a 25-year-old technology policy organization that focuses on the societal impacts of technology on civil rights, civil liberties, and democratic institutions. Our work addresses questions such as the discriminatory uses of data, the use of technology by law enforcement, and how social media platforms impact democratic discourse. We are an advocacy organization as well, and we operate six distinct policy teams to include security and surveillance equity and civic, tech, privacy, and data. The research team, obviously the elections team, and some others. But I think we want to get to some of the questions. So I'll pause there to move things forward. Or I can talk a little bit more about what we've been focusing on, which is on my team, which is more specific to disinformation, which I think we'll probably get to a little bit later. But wanted to give space for some other questions in case you had those. Lee Buoy: Okay, perfect. Yeah. Would love to cover that later and thank you for sharing. And so next question here for Demelza actually Demelza this time. Can you explain the implications of the Shelby County vs. Holder decision and what can policymakers do to respond? Demelza Baer: Sure. So back in 2013, which seems like quite a while ago, now the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act saying that it was outdated and not based on current conditions but inviting Congress to create a new coverage formula. For anyone who's not familiar with Section Five, it's the provision of the Voting Rights act that's really at the heart of it that required states and jurisdictions with the history of voting discrimination to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws or practices with either the US Department of Justice or a federal court. This was really a game-changer for our democracy because it protected the right to vote for black voters and other voters of color before an election by blocking discriminatory laws and practices before they want them to affect. Prior to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, discriminatory laws would prevent voters of color from participating in an election before litigation could actually result in the law being struck down. But since Congress has not yet enacted a new coverage formula, Section Five has been dormant since 2013. And that means that states, cities, and municipalities have been able to enact voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color people with disabilities, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, young people, and senior citizens to vote. And this year, in particular, we've seen a rash of voter suppression laws enacted and introduced across the country. So it's even more important that the federal government fulfill its role as the bulwark against threats to our democracy and political participation and to ensure that a person's fundamental right to vote does not depend on where they live. That rather is a basic civic right that everyone can rely on. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was recently introduced in the Senate. Can you explain what's in the bill and why your team has identified it as a priority? Demelza Baer: So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act recently passed the House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate. It's a priority for many reasons. Indeed. It's a bill that we really vitally need to protect and maintain our democracy. First and foremost, it restores Section Five of the Voting Rights Act by creating a new coverage formula that applies to all states and requires a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the previous 25 years so that only states with a recent history of racial discrimination in voting laws or practices are covered. However for a state or jurisdiction that doesn't have violations within a certain period of time and has a positive record with no violations, then they would no longer be covered by pre-clearance. So this is a coverage formula that responds directly to the Supreme Court's Shelby County decision by ensuring that the formula is responsive to current conditions. And in addition to restoring Section Five preclearance, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also strengthens Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which applies nationally regardless of jurisdiction's history. This year again, we had a bad Supreme Court decision. The decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee ultimately resulted in making it more difficult for lawyers to bring Section Two claims to vindicate voting discrimination. And again, just for anyone who's not familiar with Section Two versus Section Five, Section Two claims provide protection for voters against both vote dilution, which are schemes that reduce the weight of the voting power of people of color, and vote denial claims, which are standards or procedures that impede people of color from casting votes are having their votes counted. So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act both strengthened Section Two, and it would also implement a retrogression standard under Section Two, that would protect voters of color from any policy change that would make them worse off than before that change in policy or procedures. So it's really a very fundamental law that we really desperately need to be passed. It's been nearly a decade without Section Five, and it really is a moment where for our democracy, we fundamentally need this law to become, to actually be enacted by Congress. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. We'll see if they can pull it off in the Senate. And so back over to you DeVan, so you touched on this a little bit earlier, but as social media usage in the US has grown we've also seen a rise in disinformation. So why is it important that focus on disinformation and who does it mostly affect? DeVan Hankerson: Well given the threat of harm, the threats of harm, to domestic efforts to build an inclusive democracy and to public health in the case of coronavirus disinformation, the problem of online disinformation diminishes trust in democratic institutions and threatens the very fabric of democracy itself. I'll just add that earlier this year, we released a paper faxing and their discontents a research agenda for disinformation, race, and gender. Which addresses the gaps in our understanding about the links between race, gender, and the spread of disinformation, rather racist, misogynistic narratives, and the spread of disinformation. The goal of this work was to outline the areas of exploration for traditional research organizations to undertake. It's important that research about online disinformation focuses on the pattern and impacts of misinformation and disinformation on women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, and that the approach be an intersectional one. So understanding impacts, for example, on LGBTQ women of color, for example. CDT is also developing will work in this area, which will be a robust examination of the impacts of this information specifically on political candidates running for elected office, who are women of color. Existing research in this area shows a very pronounced pattern of gender disinformation campaigns, targeting women, politicians from racial, ethnic, religious, or other minoritized groups. CDT is also working on issues around election-related disinformation. My team, the research team, and the elections team headed up by Will Adler, our Senior Technologists on Elections and Democracy. We'll be releasing a report that looks at election disinformation from an international perspective actually. We know, for example, that the deployment of false narratives around election security specifically has undermined faith in the democratic process and spawn webs of conspiracy theories. And this is a global trend. This project, the one on election-related disinformation, will focus on some of the ways to improve federal and state coordination to fight election disinformation. And then more to your question about why it's important to focus on it. But I think I covered it there. We know that we need to understand a little bit more about how online disinformation translates into offline harm. And we know that more of these are being propelled or shaped by narratives that are first seen in disinformation campaigns. January 6th insurrection is one example of this. We also need to understand more how disinformation leverages false narratives that may help us improve our efforts to combat online disinformation. And there are also, of course, the suppressive impacts of disinformation, on civic engagement. For example, as I mentioned, this gender disinformation, which are campaigns that promote this narrative, that women are not good political leaders. And they often aim to undermine women by spreading false information about their qualifications, their experience, and their intelligence, sometimes using sexualized imagery as part of their tactics. And on the question of who it affects most, I think in a word that affects us all mostly. The impacts of disinformation are abroad because it has influenced people's trust in democratic institutions. And as I mentioned, January 6th attack from the US Capitol demonstrated how online disinformation can have severe offline consequences. Disinformation researchers who've worked in this area also have found that mommy and travel blogger personalities on social media, for example, were being mobilized as political nano influencers paid for digital campaign communications sometimes pushing this information from their platform. And as we know broadly speaking, the 2016 Russian-based internet research agencies, campaign targeted conservatives and progressives and people of color on Twitter. And that includes a rather large swath of the American citizenry wouldn't you say? Yeah, absolutely. Lee Buoy: And what measures can policymakers to take to combat this dissemination? DeVan Hankerson: Sure. So I'll spend some of the work of our elections team here. And of course our research on disinformation is in gender and our upcoming work on women of color in politics, which employs some of these strategies. One is to raise public awareness about the relationship between mis and disinformation and voter supression. Empower voters and reporters to demand a factual basis for information in public spheres impacting democratic participation, including on social media. Second increase the ability of under-resourced and underfunded elections officials to respond to disinformation, or even get out ahead of it by educating voters about how elections really work. Third explore opportunities to address the issue by improving coordination among stakeholders fighting disinformation and by building support for disinformation research that explicates the impacts of disinformation across race and gender. And as I mentioned earlier, CDT is already conducting research in this area, but we need other research institutions to also comprehensively assess the disparate impacts of disinformation, particularly among women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, groups that historically have been denied the rights and opportunities to fully participate in US democracy. Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, very important. And hopefully we'll see some of those changes be implemented sooner rather than later now over to you, Jessica. So if you weren't spending your time fighting voter suppression right now, what other initiatives would you focus on to expand active participation in government. I don't want to do anything else. So I will say, the league does support bills the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement, act, which Demelza talked about already and the Freedom to Vote Act, and we're also actively pushing against the 400 or so anti voter bills that were introduced across the country, but we're also working to support pro voter reform bills, which are also introduced around the country, like the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act, and over 900 actually pieces of legislation addressing those pieces across the country. And kind of hand-in-hand we're also working on redistricting and gerrymandering which I think is a form of voter suppression. So not exactly addressing your question. But we know that people powered fair maps, which is an initiative that the league is running and redistricting in particular. And if we give people the power to draw the maps, if we give people the power to pick their politicians, instead of the other way around, we can have a more representative society. And some of the provisions in the national legislation and some of the great reforms across the country in recent years have actually helped to make redistricting more transparent to make sure that there's a direct connection between voters and those who are drawing the maps, they, we know that there's opportunities formap drawers, whether it be the legislatures, which controls most of redistricting around the country or some independent redistricting commission, they're establishing criteria, that account for our communities of interest that cannot account for our minorities, that account for making sure that voters are represented and that there's more power for normal everyday people in Congress and in legislatures and even on down to like things like school boards and county commission. And a lot of that is also like DeVan said, fighting, mis and disinformation as well, and ensuring that there's transparency in the process, that people have the right information and good information to make informed decisions, and that they can they can talk to their legislators about what their community looks like and how it should be included in a map rather than other things like considering incumbent addresses and just considering where politicians live, actually considering the people and then makeup of communities around the country. So we have fair maps, we have better representation. And then we have better lawmakers and legislators who represent the needs of their constituent. Lee Buoy: Yeah. I remember learning about gerrymandering, like in government classes in school, but I don't think it ever really hit me that it was still a thing until my work at Quorum and really us having the data on those maps and seeing how some of them are, some of those districts are just really crazily drawn. Now I'll say it so very important work there. And now we will open this up to a Q and A from the audience. So feel free to put your questions in the chat and we will try to cover as many as we can in the about 30 minutes that we have left. And so do you all expect there to be any bipartisan action on voting rights? And so I'll say let's start with Jessica and then we can anyone else who wants to chime in Jessica Jones Capparell: can. I'm an incredibly optimistic person. I'm still hopeful that we will find bipartisan agreement somewhere in Congress on voting rights legislation. And, there've been a lot of, one thing that we know is that good reforms come from the states and come up into Congress as we have seen some, bipartisan good things happening in states around, around the country. I don't, I stopped using my crystal ball around the this it's a little fuzzy right now. I do think that there's a good, we have good legislation on the table especially in Congress and that there's a lot of efforts especially from Senator Manchin to bring more Republicans onto the key pieces of legislation that we have been talking about today. So I'm always hopeful. But it'll, it's gonna take a lot of effort and it's going to take, it's gonna take a lot of people coming together to do good for the American people to get there. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. Anything to add there. Demelza Baer: Yeah. So like Jessica, I'm also optimistic. I think that it's really a shame that voting rights have become politicized because, just to put this in some historical perspective, just only back in like 2006, when the voting rights act was last reauthorized, it was championed by President George W. Bush. It was passed. It passed the US Senate 98 to zero. That means that a lot of Republican senators who are still in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell voted to and express strong support for reauthorizing, the Voting Rights Act. It passed the House of Representatives by overwhelming majority. So I'm also optimistic. I think that voting rights are a fundamental right, that we all have to participate in democracy. And it's essential that we protect them. It's not a partisan political issue. And I think just in terms of specific hope, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is a Republican from Alaska has been on record with supporting recent versions of the Voting Rights Advancement act, which is now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And so I have some optimism that we might see some concrete support from her. And there's other Republican senators who I think are listening to their constituents in their, in the states who maybe aren't currently a co-sponsor, but maybe would be interested down the road if they hear from their constituents and other groups in their state about how important it is. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And DeVan anything to chime in on there? DeVan Hankerson: No, I think they've pretty much covered it. Lee Buoy: Perfect. This next one we can definitely start with you DeVan and so how do we, as people fight this information with an added note that I'm really asking if I should fight with my dad on Facebook. So I would love to hear your thoughts. DeVan Hankerson: As individuals, I think, fighting with your relatives on Facebook is probably not the best way. I know that there've been some resource, essentially that pointed out that just handing somebody some accurate piece of information isn't exactly effective. But I would say that there needs to be a lot more systemic attention to this issue because it's not just an individual problem. It's something that is at the platform level. It's something that state legislators, federal legislators can take action on. And at the individual level, I'm sure, send send credible information to your family members and try to engage them with that information. Point them to sources that provide consistent, accurate, credible authoritative information. And I would say that's probably at the level of the individual. But I'm pretty sure that there are likely to be advocacy campaigns asking for you to amplify the issue with your representative. So I think when those come around, that's definitely an opportunity as an individual to apply some pressure on your representatives around those issues. Lee Buoy: Perfect. Now I just got another question here. So do you all expect mail-in voting to stay? So I'm sure everyone on the call knows we had a lot of mail-in voting laws enacted or just policy changes during the last election due to the pandemic. And so do you all expect that to stay around post pandemic? Jessica Jones Capparell: I can go first. I think so. Yes. Mail-in voting, isn't something that's new or just came about in the 2020 election. You have several states that do it, do only mail-in voting Colorado, Oregon. There are a couple of others who just do mail-in voting and they've made those systems work really well. And then we've always had absentee voting. The, I think the difference with the 2020 election is we are in the middle of a pandemic and people needed a safe option to vote from their home and, not risk their health and their safety. So I do expect that mail and voting to continue and to grow and, it's just about making sure safe and accessible for everyone who wants to do it. And then really if people have the opportunity to vote in the way that they want to do, and if they want to do it by mail-in, they can, but if they also want to go to the polls they can do that as well or vote early. But I do think mail-in voting will stay. Demelza Baer: The only thing I would add to Jessica's pretty excellent summary is that there are, obviously some federal bills that are attempting to provide a minimum federal baseline protection for having no excuse absentee voting by mail and a certain number of early voting days. I think there are some states you really see that the states that have the best policies in terms of having a good number of early voting days and having no excuse absentee voting by mail tend to have the highest voter participation and states with same day voter registration. So really you see a really direct connection, regardless of, there's a lot of very diverse states who don't have a lot in common with each other, but what they do have in common is really voter forward laws in terms of both registering to vote and casting a ballot. And so I think that what, some of the things we've been working on at the federal level are bills that would create a a minimum federal baseline standard in terms of having a certain number of early voting days, having no excuse absentee voting, and I think you see those provisions in bills like the, For the People Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Lee Buoy: Awesome. And I'm just throwing this question in. DeVan do you feel that disinformation is a part of getting these things done? So for example, someone may not trust mail in voting based on disinformation that they've seen online. Do you feel in order to get the American public on board with mail-in voting to convince some of those lawmakers, those Republican lawmakers who Demelza mentioned may change their mind depending on what they hear from their constituents. Do you feel like disinformation is a big part of that and making sure that their constituents aren't not supporting this because of disinformation that they've seen online? DeVan Hankerson: Yes. I think that a lot of election disinformation impact how people access electoral information. And I think I mentioned in one of the ways that policymakers that could combat this information is to really think about how to send more resources to underfunded election officials so that they have the ability to respond to disinformation or to even try to get out ahead of it before it happens by educating voters about how elections really work and that includes mail-in voting, absentee voting, those kinds of mechanisms. I think it really is in some cases about providing multiple sources of credible authoritative information. And allowing the American people to be able to turn to a local elections entity for that authoritative credible information, they would have provided, ahead of time and on a consistent basis as well. Just to add quickly. I think that part of what we've seen, at least in our research and not just in English, but also in a non-English language is that there's an absence of credible authoritative information that's being disseminated to the public in a consistent fashion. And we've seen that become a problem, obviously in non-English language communities. Lee Buoy: Okay. And we do have another question from the chat. So as an Australian, I'm always surprised by how few people vote in America. Can you imagine enacting compulsory voting? And so let's start with, Demelza. Demelza Baer: Thank you. So I, what's interesting about that question is that I think that for some elections, we do have lower participation rates, but if you look at really a lot of the communities on behalf of which we advocate, people of color, women, people with disabilities, young people, senior citizens, Native Americans, and Alaska natives there are so many barriers to vote right now. There are so many barriers to register. There are so many barriers to actually cast a ballot, and there's a lot of people who have to take time off from work, and maybe that's a barrier. Maybe they have childcare issues. So I think that before we, we went to compulsory, I think if we had nationwide election day was a federal holiday and we had certain minimum protections, like no excuse absentee voting by mail for everyone and a certain number of early voting days I think our voter participation rate would be through the roof if we removed a lot of these barriers to voting. Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, absolutely say the biggest barrier. I agree with Demelza a hundred percent. I think the biggest barrier we know to voting is actually making sure that you're registered to vote. So in addition to universal, no-excuse absentee, having same-day registration where voters can go to the polls register and cast regular ballots at the same time is really important. There are other things like automatic voter registration, where if you interact with the DMV or other agency they'll automatically register you to vote unless you tell them you don't want to be. Making sure that people can change and update their registration or initiate their registration online is also very important. Removing the key barrier which is just registering I think we'd see a huge amount of participation as well. Lee Buoy: Now I have another question here. Do you expect voter participation to go down after Trump? So we can start with Jessica this time. Jessica Jones Capparell: Okay. Let me preface this by saying the League is a non-partisan organization. I think that there is a huge focus on politics and on the issues that affect us more so than any other time, whether it be because of the former president or the current president or the current state of Congress. And I think that voter participation is going to continue to increase because people know that they have to make their voices heard and the best way to do that is to vote. So I anticipate for our participation to continue to go up, not because of President Trump, but just because of the amount of engagement that people and engagement in I can't find the word. Just that amount of like engagement and emphasis that they want to have on whatever on all the things that are going on around them. Demelza Baer: I would echo Jessica's thoughts and just that right now, we're in a, we're in a once in a 100 years global pandemic where we're dealing with huge structural changes in our economy we're dealing with issues of police, accountability that has not been resolved through federal legislation. We're dealing with challenges to the right to vote across the country. There are so many challenges that right now our country is dealing with, including not having address comprehensive immigration reform in decades. There are so many issues that people care about, which affect them, their families, their neighbors, their communities, that I think that we're going to continue to see pretty high engagement as long as. People are willing to keep pushing to overcome though the barriers that have been placed in their way, in terms of voting. We saw that last year where there were millions of people who risk their own health to vote during the pandemic in person when they didn't have other options. And so I just think that we all want to work to get to the place where people don't have to risk their health or wellbeing or their job or not, knowing who they can leave their child with in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Lee Buoy: Okay. Perfect. And anything else to add there? DeVan Hankerson: Sorry. I think I turned off my video by mistake. I don't know if I can add anything. So from a legal perspective, my opinion is more informed by my personal views. So I'll just say that. I definitely don't think that voting participation is going to go down. And I would echo some of what Jessica said, which is that people are really much more aware of the influence that their vote, has on the lives that they live. And I don't think that you can roll that back. I don't think that you can like, what is it uncork, the cork, the wine or whatever? And so I think that will continue to I think that the voter participation will continue to grow. And really, I think it's a reflection of my optimism about the impact of all of the work that we're doing on that, it will have some greater influence. And I think that there are a lot of smart people working on this issue and it has to make sense. Awesome. Lee Buoy: And speaking of smart people working on this issue let's go on to the final question that we'll have from the audience which is which legislators in the federal government are leading the way on these voting rights protections and things like that? So let's start with Demelza. Demelza Baer: So there's there's a number of folks in the Senate who've been working on some of the bills we've been talking about. Senator Leahy has been a champion,Senator Durbin, Senator Warnock from Georgia, Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota has been a champion, especially on a lot of the election access issues. Senator Manchin as Jessica mentioned, has been working to try to build bipartisan support. And we have seen, Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a champion of the Native American Voting rights Act and a really strong supporter and may show support on some other bills potentially. And then, in the House, Representative Jerry Nadler has been a champion for these bills as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. And there's a number of other members and also giving a lot of credit to the Congressional Black Caucus and the house numbers, particularly who have been champions. And there are members who were just always stalwart champions on voting rights and civil rights, like Representative Karen Bass. Jessica Jones Capparell: Also add Congressman John Sarbanes from Maryland has been a leader in the House. And Congresswoman Terri Sewell from Alabama has been leading the charge on the voting Rights Advancement Act in the House now for years. So those are great. And I also would end on the point, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized, as Demelza talked about it a little bit earlier with bipartisan support every single time, both in the White House and in Congress. And so there are a lot more opportunities for more people to come on board and to get behind some really great legislation that would end discrimination in voting and set national standards for voting around. Awesome. And any other names to add there? DeVan? No, I think I think Jessica and Demelza covered a lot of them. [post_title] => Democracy and Civil Participation Deep Dive [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => democracy-civil-participation-deep-dive [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-14 14:23:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-14 14:23:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=5781 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5781 [post_author] => 12 [post_date] => 2021-10-14 14:22:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-14 14:22:35 [post_content] => Lee Buoy: Hi everyone and welcome to our session on democracy and civic participation. My name is Lee Buoy and I am a Senior Customer Success Manager here at Quorum, working with our clients as a strategic advisor on a number of our products, including grassroots advocacy, stakeholder engagement, federal. And some international as well. In terms of my background before working at Quorum, I was in the nonprofit space, both at a tech company where we'd built software for nonprofits. And I also spent a few years working at the YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. Very excited to be leading this session today with our dynamite speakers. So as I've mentioned already today, we'll be discussing democracy and civic participation. This session was initially built as a Civil Rights Deep Dive, but given our speaker's expertise, we figured we would take a more narrow lane of democracy and civic participation. So as I read our speaker's bio that I think you'll see that we have a stacked lineup for this conversation. So I'll start with Jessica Jones Capparrell and so Jessica is the Director of Government Affairs at the League of Women Voters of the United States. Jessica manages relationships and strategic planning for federal legislation and lobbying that benefit the organization. The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. So thanks for being with us today. Next up we have Demelza Baer and Demelza is the Director of Public Policy for the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights under law, where she is responsible for leading and coordinating advocacy before federal state and local legislative bodies and executive agencies, overseeing policy research and reports, and managing the policy team. And last, but certainly not least we have Devin Hankerson. Madrigal. DeVan is the Center for Democracy and Technologies' Research Manager and an advocate for improving technology access to expand individual rights and ensuring that more people share in the benefits of technological progress. At CDT DeVan joins a research team focused on advancing human rights and civil liberties online. Thank you all for being here. And I'll just go ahead and dive into our questions here. So my first question is for Jessica. Can you share why the League of Women Voters puts so much of an emphasis on informed and active participation in government? Jessica Jones Capparell: Sure. Thanks so much, Lee, and thanks so much for having me excited to be here with all these panelists. So the league of women voters is it's an organization that's 101 years old. And it's pretty rare. We are an organization founded out of the suffrage movement, founded right before the 19th amendment was passed in Congress and then ratified by the states. The founders of our organization really started to even, we were founded like, started to look at how we have all of these new voters. You have all these women voters now, how do we make sure that they vote and they make informed decisions? Our civic participation really goes back to our founding. We know that if we have voters who are informed and who are voting based on issues that we have a better chance and a better representative of democracy. So what the league strives to do is to provide voters with information through vote 411 which is our one-stop-shop. Website for all of your voting needs you can find out what the candidates want or what they, how they feel about things. You can find out what you need to take with you when you need to vote, where your polling location is. All of that good fun. And then on the flip side of that, we also work to take public policy positions that are derived from our members and also influence lawmakers once they get there. And then engage people year-round so they're not just engaged in elections. They're also engaged in the activities of our government because we know that the more engaged voters are in elections and outside of elections, the better representatives our democracy is for everyone. Lee Buoy: So awesome. What important work that you're doing. And I think we could all stand to be a little bit more, maybe not us on this call as policy wonks participating in Wonk Week, but like most voters could stand to be a little bit more informed. So that is awesome. So my next question here is for Demelza. Can you give us a brief overview of your work at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Demelza Baer: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me here. I'm very excited to be joining you all. My name is Demelza Baer I'm the Director of Public Policy at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. And the Lawyer's Committee was also found quite some time ago and was founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy, who really wanted to mobilize the resources of the private bar to combat racial discrimination. And really, since our founding voting has been at the heart of a lot of the Lawyers Committee's work. Way back when the Voting Rights Act was first being considered in 1965, we were there fighting for it to be enacted. And since that time we've continued to engage in a lot of policy advocacy in the legislatures, in the courts, litigation to protect the right to vote under both federal and state law. And we also have for now nearly 20 years, been the national coordinator of election protection across the country, working with a huge number of state and local organizations, and we run the 1 8, 6, our vote hotline during elections. So this may be an off here, but if you are in Virginia or New Jersey this year, please don't forget to give us a call on that line if you have any issues registering to vote or actually voting. But beyond voting rights, which we do consider a cornerstone right for our democracy, the Lawyers Committee works across civil rights on a number of issues including fair housing, economic justice, criminal justice reform, digital justice, and privacy. Tackling hate crimes. So really the full range of issues we work on at the federal and state. Lee Buoy: Awesome again, very important work. I'm sure you all have been very busy the last couple of years, but particularly in the last year or so. And last but not least, Demelza can you explain can you share a little bit more about your work at the Center for Democracy and Tech? DeVan Hankerson: I think you've met Devin, but that's okay. Unless Demelza is also working which would be fine. You sound amazing. No, but my name is Devin Hankerson Madrigal, and I'm Research Manager at the Center for Democracy and Technology known as CDT. CDT is a 25-year-old technology policy organization that focuses on the societal impacts of technology on civil rights, civil liberties, and democratic institutions. Our work addresses questions such as the discriminatory uses of data, the use of technology by law enforcement, and how social media platforms impact democratic discourse. We are an advocacy organization as well, and we operate six distinct policy teams to include security and surveillance equity and civic, tech, privacy, and data. The research team, obviously the elections team, and some others. But I think we want to get to some of the questions. So I'll pause there to move things forward. Or I can talk a little bit more about what we've been focusing on, which is on my team, which is more specific to disinformation, which I think we'll probably get to a little bit later. But wanted to give space for some other questions in case you had those. Lee Buoy: Okay, perfect. Yeah. Would love to cover that later and thank you for sharing. And so next question here for Demelza actually Demelza this time. Can you explain the implications of the Shelby County vs. Holder decision and what can policymakers do to respond? Demelza Baer: Sure. So back in 2013, which seems like quite a while ago, now the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act saying that it was outdated and not based on current conditions but inviting Congress to create a new coverage formula. For anyone who's not familiar with Section Five, it's the provision of the Voting Rights act that's really at the heart of it that required states and jurisdictions with the history of voting discrimination to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws or practices with either the US Department of Justice or a federal court. This was really a game-changer for our democracy because it protected the right to vote for black voters and other voters of color before an election by blocking discriminatory laws and practices before they want them to affect. Prior to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, discriminatory laws would prevent voters of color from participating in an election before litigation could actually result in the law being struck down. But since Congress has not yet enacted a new coverage formula, Section Five has been dormant since 2013. And that means that states, cities, and municipalities have been able to enact voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color people with disabilities, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, young people, and senior citizens to vote. And this year, in particular, we've seen a rash of voter suppression laws enacted and introduced across the country. So it's even more important that the federal government fulfill its role as the bulwark against threats to our democracy and political participation and to ensure that a person's fundamental right to vote does not depend on where they live. That rather is a basic civic right that everyone can rely on. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was recently introduced in the Senate. Can you explain what's in the bill and why your team has identified it as a priority? Demelza Baer: So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act recently passed the House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate. It's a priority for many reasons. Indeed. It's a bill that we really vitally need to protect and maintain our democracy. First and foremost, it restores Section Five of the Voting Rights Act by creating a new coverage formula that applies to all states and requires a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the previous 25 years so that only states with a recent history of racial discrimination in voting laws or practices are covered. However for a state or jurisdiction that doesn't have violations within a certain period of time and has a positive record with no violations, then they would no longer be covered by pre-clearance. So this is a coverage formula that responds directly to the Supreme Court's Shelby County decision by ensuring that the formula is responsive to current conditions. And in addition to restoring Section Five preclearance, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also strengthens Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which applies nationally regardless of jurisdiction's history. This year again, we had a bad Supreme Court decision. The decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee ultimately resulted in making it more difficult for lawyers to bring Section Two claims to vindicate voting discrimination. And again, just for anyone who's not familiar with Section Two versus Section Five, Section Two claims provide protection for voters against both vote dilution, which are schemes that reduce the weight of the voting power of people of color, and vote denial claims, which are standards or procedures that impede people of color from casting votes are having their votes counted. So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act both strengthened Section Two, and it would also implement a retrogression standard under Section Two, that would protect voters of color from any policy change that would make them worse off than before that change in policy or procedures. So it's really a very fundamental law that we really desperately need to be passed. It's been nearly a decade without Section Five, and it really is a moment where for our democracy, we fundamentally need this law to become, to actually be enacted by Congress. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. We'll see if they can pull it off in the Senate. And so back over to you DeVan, so you touched on this a little bit earlier, but as social media usage in the US has grown we've also seen a rise in disinformation. So why is it important that focus on disinformation and who does it mostly affect? DeVan Hankerson: Well given the threat of harm, the threats of harm, to domestic efforts to build an inclusive democracy and to public health in the case of coronavirus disinformation, the problem of online disinformation diminishes trust in democratic institutions and threatens the very fabric of democracy itself. I'll just add that earlier this year, we released a paper faxing and their discontents a research agenda for disinformation, race, and gender. Which addresses the gaps in our understanding about the links between race, gender, and the spread of disinformation, rather racist, misogynistic narratives, and the spread of disinformation. The goal of this work was to outline the areas of exploration for traditional research organizations to undertake. It's important that research about online disinformation focuses on the pattern and impacts of misinformation and disinformation on women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, and that the approach be an intersectional one. So understanding impacts, for example, on LGBTQ women of color, for example. CDT is also developing will work in this area, which will be a robust examination of the impacts of this information specifically on political candidates running for elected office, who are women of color. Existing research in this area shows a very pronounced pattern of gender disinformation campaigns, targeting women, politicians from racial, ethnic, religious, or other minoritized groups. CDT is also working on issues around election-related disinformation. My team, the research team, and the elections team headed up by Will Adler, our Senior Technologists on Elections and Democracy. We'll be releasing a report that looks at election disinformation from an international perspective actually. We know, for example, that the deployment of false narratives around election security specifically has undermined faith in the democratic process and spawn webs of conspiracy theories. And this is a global trend. This project, the one on election-related disinformation, will focus on some of the ways to improve federal and state coordination to fight election disinformation. And then more to your question about why it's important to focus on it. But I think I covered it there. We know that we need to understand a little bit more about how online disinformation translates into offline harm. And we know that more of these are being propelled or shaped by narratives that are first seen in disinformation campaigns. January 6th insurrection is one example of this. We also need to understand more how disinformation leverages false narratives that may help us improve our efforts to combat online disinformation. And there are also, of course, the suppressive impacts of disinformation, on civic engagement. For example, as I mentioned, this gender disinformation, which are campaigns that promote this narrative, that women are not good political leaders. And they often aim to undermine women by spreading false information about their qualifications, their experience, and their intelligence, sometimes using sexualized imagery as part of their tactics. And on the question of who it affects most, I think in a word that affects us all mostly. The impacts of disinformation are abroad because it has influenced people's trust in democratic institutions. And as I mentioned, January 6th attack from the US Capitol demonstrated how online disinformation can have severe offline consequences. Disinformation researchers who've worked in this area also have found that mommy and travel blogger personalities on social media, for example, were being mobilized as political nano influencers paid for digital campaign communications sometimes pushing this information from their platform. And as we know broadly speaking, the 2016 Russian-based internet research agencies, campaign targeted conservatives and progressives and people of color on Twitter. And that includes a rather large swath of the American citizenry wouldn't you say? Yeah, absolutely. Lee Buoy: And what measures can policymakers to take to combat this dissemination? DeVan Hankerson: Sure. So I'll spend some of the work of our elections team here. And of course our research on disinformation is in gender and our upcoming work on women of color in politics, which employs some of these strategies. One is to raise public awareness about the relationship between mis and disinformation and voter supression. Empower voters and reporters to demand a factual basis for information in public spheres impacting democratic participation, including on social media. Second increase the ability of under-resourced and underfunded elections officials to respond to disinformation, or even get out ahead of it by educating voters about how elections really work. Third explore opportunities to address the issue by improving coordination among stakeholders fighting disinformation and by building support for disinformation research that explicates the impacts of disinformation across race and gender. And as I mentioned earlier, CDT is already conducting research in this area, but we need other research institutions to also comprehensively assess the disparate impacts of disinformation, particularly among women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, groups that historically have been denied the rights and opportunities to fully participate in US democracy. Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, very important. And hopefully we'll see some of those changes be implemented sooner rather than later now over to you, Jessica. So if you weren't spending your time fighting voter suppression right now, what other initiatives would you focus on to expand active participation in government. I don't want to do anything else. So I will say, the league does support bills the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement, act, which Demelza talked about already and the Freedom to Vote Act, and we're also actively pushing against the 400 or so anti voter bills that were introduced across the country, but we're also working to support pro voter reform bills, which are also introduced around the country, like the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act, and over 900 actually pieces of legislation addressing those pieces across the country. And kind of hand-in-hand we're also working on redistricting and gerrymandering which I think is a form of voter suppression. So not exactly addressing your question. But we know that people powered fair maps, which is an initiative that the league is running and redistricting in particular. And if we give people the power to draw the maps, if we give people the power to pick their politicians, instead of the other way around, we can have a more representative society. And some of the provisions in the national legislation and some of the great reforms across the country in recent years have actually helped to make redistricting more transparent to make sure that there's a direct connection between voters and those who are drawing the maps, they, we know that there's opportunities formap drawers, whether it be the legislatures, which controls most of redistricting around the country or some independent redistricting commission, they're establishing criteria, that account for our communities of interest that cannot account for our minorities, that account for making sure that voters are represented and that there's more power for normal everyday people in Congress and in legislatures and even on down to like things like school boards and county commission. And a lot of that is also like DeVan said, fighting, mis and disinformation as well, and ensuring that there's transparency in the process, that people have the right information and good information to make informed decisions, and that they can they can talk to their legislators about what their community looks like and how it should be included in a map rather than other things like considering incumbent addresses and just considering where politicians live, actually considering the people and then makeup of communities around the country. So we have fair maps, we have better representation. And then we have better lawmakers and legislators who represent the needs of their constituent. Lee Buoy: Yeah. I remember learning about gerrymandering, like in government classes in school, but I don't think it ever really hit me that it was still a thing until my work at Quorum and really us having the data on those maps and seeing how some of them are, some of those districts are just really crazily drawn. Now I'll say it so very important work there. And now we will open this up to a Q and A from the audience. So feel free to put your questions in the chat and we will try to cover as many as we can in the about 30 minutes that we have left. And so do you all expect there to be any bipartisan action on voting rights? And so I'll say let's start with Jessica and then we can anyone else who wants to chime in Jessica Jones Capparell: can. I'm an incredibly optimistic person. I'm still hopeful that we will find bipartisan agreement somewhere in Congress on voting rights legislation. And, there've been a lot of, one thing that we know is that good reforms come from the states and come up into Congress as we have seen some, bipartisan good things happening in states around, around the country. I don't, I stopped using my crystal ball around the this it's a little fuzzy right now. I do think that there's a good, we have good legislation on the table especially in Congress and that there's a lot of efforts especially from Senator Manchin to bring more Republicans onto the key pieces of legislation that we have been talking about today. So I'm always hopeful. But it'll, it's gonna take a lot of effort and it's going to take, it's gonna take a lot of people coming together to do good for the American people to get there. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. Anything to add there. Demelza Baer: Yeah. So like Jessica, I'm also optimistic. I think that it's really a shame that voting rights have become politicized because, just to put this in some historical perspective, just only back in like 2006, when the voting rights act was last reauthorized, it was championed by President George W. Bush. It was passed. It passed the US Senate 98 to zero. That means that a lot of Republican senators who are still in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell voted to and express strong support for reauthorizing, the Voting Rights Act. It passed the House of Representatives by overwhelming majority. So I'm also optimistic. I think that voting rights are a fundamental right, that we all have to participate in democracy. And it's essential that we protect them. It's not a partisan political issue. And I think just in terms of specific hope, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is a Republican from Alaska has been on record with supporting recent versions of the Voting Rights Advancement act, which is now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And so I have some optimism that we might see some concrete support from her. And there's other Republican senators who I think are listening to their constituents in their, in the states who maybe aren't currently a co-sponsor, but maybe would be interested down the road if they hear from their constituents and other groups in their state about how important it is. Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And DeVan anything to chime in on there? DeVan Hankerson: No, I think they've pretty much covered it. Lee Buoy: Perfect. This next one we can definitely start with you DeVan and so how do we, as people fight this information with an added note that I'm really asking if I should fight with my dad on Facebook. So I would love to hear your thoughts. DeVan Hankerson: As individuals, I think, fighting with your relatives on Facebook is probably not the best way. I know that there've been some resource, essentially that pointed out that just handing somebody some accurate piece of information isn't exactly effective. But I would say that there needs to be a lot more systemic attention to this issue because it's not just an individual problem. It's something that is at the platform level. It's something that state legislators, federal legislators can take action on. And at the individual level, I'm sure, send send credible information to your family members and try to engage them with that information. Point them to sources that provide consistent, accurate, credible authoritative information. And I would say that's probably at the level of the individual. But I'm pretty sure that there are likely to be advocacy campaigns asking for you to amplify the issue with your representative. So I think when those come around, that's definitely an opportunity as an individual to apply some pressure on your representatives around those issues. Lee Buoy: Perfect. Now I just got another question here. So do you all expect mail-in voting to stay? So I'm sure everyone on the call knows we had a lot of mail-in voting laws enacted or just policy changes during the last election due to the pandemic. And so do you all expect that to stay around post pandemic? Jessica Jones Capparell: I can go first. I think so. Yes. Mail-in voting, isn't something that's new or just came about in the 2020 election. You have several states that do it, do only mail-in voting Colorado, Oregon. There are a couple of others who just do mail-in voting and they've made those systems work really well. And then we've always had absentee voting. The, I think the difference with the 2020 election is we are in the middle of a pandemic and people needed a safe option to vote from their home and, not risk their health and their safety. So I do expect that mail and voting to continue and to grow and, it's just about making sure safe and accessible for everyone who wants to do it. And then really if people have the opportunity to vote in the way that they want to do, and if they want to do it by mail-in, they can, but if they also want to go to the polls they can do that as well or vote early. But I do think mail-in voting will stay. Demelza Baer: The only thing I would add to Jessica's pretty excellent summary is that there are, obviously some federal bills that are attempting to provide a minimum federal baseline protection for having no excuse absentee voting by mail and a certain number of early voting days. I think there are some states you really see that the states that have the best policies in terms of having a good number of early voting days and having no excuse absentee voting by mail tend to have the highest voter participation and states with same day voter registration. So really you see a really direct connection, regardless of, there's a lot of very diverse states who don't have a lot in common with each other, but what they do have in common is really voter forward laws in terms of both registering to vote and casting a ballot. And so I think that what, some of the things we've been working on at the federal level are bills that would create a a minimum federal baseline standard in terms of having a certain number of early voting days, having no excuse absentee voting, and I think you see those provisions in bills like the, For the People Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Lee Buoy: Awesome. And I'm just throwing this question in. DeVan do you feel that disinformation is a part of getting these things done? So for example, someone may not trust mail in voting based on disinformation that they've seen online. Do you feel in order to get the American public on board with mail-in voting to convince some of those lawmakers, those Republican lawmakers who Demelza mentioned may change their mind depending on what they hear from their constituents. Do you feel like disinformation is a big part of that and making sure that their constituents aren't not supporting this because of disinformation that they've seen online? DeVan Hankerson: Yes. I think that a lot of election disinformation impact how people access electoral information. And I think I mentioned in one of the ways that policymakers that could combat this information is to really think about how to send more resources to underfunded election officials so that they have the ability to respond to disinformation or to even try to get out ahead of it before it happens by educating voters about how elections really work and that includes mail-in voting, absentee voting, those kinds of mechanisms. I think it really is in some cases about providing multiple sources of credible authoritative information. And allowing the American people to be able to turn to a local elections entity for that authoritative credible information, they would have provided, ahead of time and on a consistent basis as well. Just to add quickly. I think that part of what we've seen, at least in our research and not just in English, but also in a non-English language is that there's an absence of credible authoritative information that's being disseminated to the public in a consistent fashion. And we've seen that become a problem, obviously in non-English language communities. Lee Buoy: Okay. And we do have another question from the chat. So as an Australian, I'm always surprised by how few people vote in America. Can you imagine enacting compulsory voting? And so let's start with, Demelza. Demelza Baer: Thank you. So I, what's interesting about that question is that I think that for some elections, we do have lower participation rates, but if you look at really a lot of the communities on behalf of which we advocate, people of color, women, people with disabilities, young people, senior citizens, Native Americans, and Alaska natives there are so many barriers to vote right now. There are so many barriers to register. There are so many barriers to actually cast a ballot, and there's a lot of people who have to take time off from work, and maybe that's a barrier. Maybe they have childcare issues. So I think that before we, we went to compulsory, I think if we had nationwide election day was a federal holiday and we had certain minimum protections, like no excuse absentee voting by mail for everyone and a certain number of early voting days I think our voter participation rate would be through the roof if we removed a lot of these barriers to voting. Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, absolutely say the biggest barrier. I agree with Demelza a hundred percent. I think the biggest barrier we know to voting is actually making sure that you're registered to vote. So in addition to universal, no-excuse absentee, having same-day registration where voters can go to the polls register and cast regular ballots at the same time is really important. There are other things like automatic voter registration, where if you interact with the DMV or other agency they'll automatically register you to vote unless you tell them you don't want to be. Making sure that people can change and update their registration or initiate their registration online is also very important. Removing the key barrier which is just registering I think we'd see a huge amount of participation as well. Lee Buoy: Now I have another question here. Do you expect voter participation to go down after Trump? So we can start with Jessica this time. Jessica Jones Capparell: Okay. Let me preface this by saying the League is a non-partisan organization. I think that there is a huge focus on politics and on the issues that affect us more so than any other time, whether it be because of the former president or the current president or the current state of Congress. And I think that voter participation is going to continue to increase because people know that they have to make their voices heard and the best way to do that is to vote. So I anticipate for our participation to continue to go up, not because of President Trump, but just because of the amount of engagement that people and engagement in I can't find the word. Just that amount of like engagement and emphasis that they want to have on whatever on all the things that are going on around them. Demelza Baer: I would echo Jessica's thoughts and just that right now, we're in a, we're in a once in a 100 years global pandemic where we're dealing with huge structural changes in our economy we're dealing with issues of police, accountability that has not been resolved through federal legislation. We're dealing with challenges to the right to vote across the country. There are so many challenges that right now our country is dealing with, including not having address comprehensive immigration reform in decades. There are so many issues that people care about, which affect them, their families, their neighbors, their communities, that I think that we're going to continue to see pretty high engagement as long as. People are willing to keep pushing to overcome though the barriers that have been placed in their way, in terms of voting. We saw that last year where there were millions of people who risk their own health to vote during the pandemic in person when they didn't have other options. And so I just think that we all want to work to get to the place where people don't have to risk their health or wellbeing or their job or not, knowing who they can leave their child with in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Lee Buoy: Okay. Perfect. And anything else to add there? DeVan Hankerson: Sorry. I think I turned off my video by mistake. I don't know if I can add anything. So from a legal perspective, my opinion is more informed by my personal views. So I'll just say that. I definitely don't think that voting participation is going to go down. And I would echo some of what Jessica said, which is that people are really much more aware of the influence that their vote, has on the lives that they live. And I don't think that you can roll that back. I don't think that you can like, what is it uncork, the cork, the wine or whatever? And so I think that will continue to I think that the voter participation will continue to grow. And really, I think it's a reflection of my optimism about the impact of all of the work that we're doing on that, it will have some greater influence. And I think that there are a lot of smart people working on this issue and it has to make sense. Awesome. Lee Buoy: And speaking of smart people working on this issue let's go on to the final question that we'll have from the audience which is which legislators in the federal government are leading the way on these voting rights protections and things like that? So let's start with Demelza. Demelza Baer: So there's there's a number of folks in the Senate who've been working on some of the bills we've been talking about. Senator Leahy has been a champion,Senator Durbin, Senator Warnock from Georgia, Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota has been a champion, especially on a lot of the election access issues. Senator Manchin as Jessica mentioned, has been working to try to build bipartisan support. And we have seen, Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a champion of the Native American Voting rights Act and a really strong supporter and may show support on some other bills potentially. And then, in the House, Representative Jerry Nadler has been a champion for these bills as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. And there's a number of other members and also giving a lot of credit to the Congressional Black Caucus and the house numbers, particularly who have been champions. And there are members who were just always stalwart champions on voting rights and civil rights, like Representative Karen Bass. Jessica Jones Capparell: Also add Congressman John Sarbanes from Maryland has been a leader in the House. And Congresswoman Terri Sewell from Alabama has been leading the charge on the voting Rights Advancement Act in the House now for years. So those are great. And I also would end on the point, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized, as Demelza talked about it a little bit earlier with bipartisan support every single time, both in the White House and in Congress. And so there are a lot more opportunities for more people to come on board and to get behind some really great legislation that would end discrimination in voting and set national standards for voting around. Awesome. And any other names to add there? DeVan? No, I think I think Jessica and Demelza covered a lot of them. 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Democracy and Civil Participation Deep Dive

Democracy and Civil Participation Deep Dive

Lee Buoy: Hi everyone and welcome to our session on democracy and civic participation. My name is Lee Buoy and I am a Senior Customer Success Manager here at Quorum, working with our clients as a strategic advisor on a number of our products, including grassroots advocacy, stakeholder engagement, federal. And some international as well.

In terms of my background before working at Quorum, I was in the nonprofit space, both at a tech company where we’d built software for nonprofits. And I also spent a few years working at the YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. Very excited to be leading this session today with our dynamite speakers.

So as I’ve mentioned already today, we’ll be discussing democracy and civic participation. This session was initially built as a Civil Rights Deep Dive, but given our speaker’s expertise, we figured we would take a more narrow lane of democracy and civic participation. So as I read our speaker’s bio that I think you’ll see that we have a stacked lineup for this conversation. So I’ll start with Jessica Jones Capparrell and so Jessica is the Director of Government Affairs at the League of Women Voters of the United States. Jessica manages relationships and strategic planning for federal legislation and lobbying that benefit the organization.

The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. So thanks for being with us today. Next up we have Demelza Baer and Demelza is the Director of Public Policy for the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights under law, where she is responsible for leading and coordinating advocacy before federal state and local legislative bodies and executive agencies, overseeing policy research and reports, and managing the policy team. And last, but certainly not least we have Devin Hankerson. Madrigal. DeVan is the Center for Democracy and Technologies’ Research Manager and an advocate for improving technology access to expand individual rights and ensuring that more people share in the benefits of technological progress. At CDT DeVan joins a research team focused on advancing human rights and civil liberties online. Thank you all for being here. And I’ll just go ahead and dive into our questions here. So my first question is for Jessica.

Can you share why the League of Women Voters puts so much of an emphasis on informed and active participation in government?

Jessica Jones Capparell: Sure. Thanks so much, Lee, and thanks so much for having me excited to be here with all these panelists. So the league of women voters is it’s an organization that’s 101 years old.

And it’s pretty rare. We are an organization founded out of the suffrage movement, founded right before the 19th amendment was passed in Congress and then ratified by the states. The founders of our organization really started to even, we were founded like, started to look at how we have all of these new voters.

You have all these women voters now, how do we make sure that they vote and they make informed decisions? Our civic participation really goes back to our founding. We know that if we have voters who are informed and who are voting based on issues that we have a better chance and a better representative of democracy.

So what the league strives to do is to provide voters with information through vote 411 which is our one-stop-shop. Website for all of your voting needs you can find out what the candidates want or what they, how they feel about things. You can find out what you need to take with you when you need to vote, where your polling location is. All of that good fun.

And then on the flip side of that, we also work to take public policy positions that are derived from our members and also influence lawmakers once they get there. And then engage people year-round so they’re not just engaged in elections. They’re also engaged in the activities of our government because we know that the more engaged voters are in elections and outside of elections, the better representatives our democracy is for everyone.

Lee Buoy: So awesome. What important work that you’re doing. And I think we could all stand to be a little bit more, maybe not us on this call as policy wonks participating in Wonk Week, but like most voters could stand to be a little bit more informed. So that is awesome.

So my next question here is for Demelza. Can you give us a brief overview of your work at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Demelza Baer: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me here. I’m very excited to be joining you all. My name is Demelza Baer I’m the Director of Public Policy at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. And the Lawyer’s Committee was also found quite some time ago and was founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy, who really wanted to mobilize the resources of the private bar to combat racial discrimination. And really, since our founding voting has been at the heart of a lot of the Lawyers Committee’s work. Way back when the Voting Rights Act was first being considered in 1965, we were there fighting for it to be enacted.

And since that time we’ve continued to engage in a lot of policy advocacy in the legislatures, in the courts, litigation to protect the right to vote under both federal and state law. And we also have for now nearly 20 years, been the national coordinator of election protection across the country, working with a huge number of state and local organizations, and we run the 1 8, 6, our vote hotline during elections. So this may be an off here, but if you are in Virginia or New Jersey this year, please don’t forget to give us a call on that line if you have any issues registering to vote or actually voting.

But beyond voting rights, which we do consider a cornerstone right for our democracy, the Lawyers Committee works across civil rights on a number of issues including fair housing, economic justice, criminal justice reform, digital justice, and privacy. Tackling hate crimes. So really the full range of issues we work on at the federal and state.

Lee Buoy: Awesome again, very important work. I’m sure you all have been very busy the last couple of years, but particularly in the last year or so. And last but not least, Demelza can you explain can you share a little bit more about your work at the Center for Democracy and Tech?

DeVan Hankerson: I think you’ve met Devin, but that’s okay.

Unless Demelza is also working which would be fine. You sound amazing. No, but my name is Devin Hankerson Madrigal, and I’m Research Manager at the Center for Democracy and Technology known as CDT. CDT is a 25-year-old technology policy organization that focuses on the societal impacts of technology on civil rights, civil liberties, and democratic institutions. Our work addresses questions such as the discriminatory uses of data, the use of technology by law enforcement, and how social media platforms impact democratic discourse. We are an advocacy organization as well, and we operate six distinct policy teams to include security and surveillance equity and civic, tech, privacy, and data. The research team, obviously the elections team, and some others.

But I think we want to get to some of the questions. So I’ll pause there to move things forward. Or I can talk a little bit more about what we’ve been focusing on, which is on my team, which is more specific to disinformation, which I think we’ll probably get to a little bit later. But wanted to give space for some other questions in case you had those.

Lee Buoy: Okay, perfect. Yeah. Would love to cover that later and thank you for sharing. And so next question here for Demelza actually Demelza this time. Can you explain the implications of the Shelby County vs. Holder decision and what can policymakers do to respond?

Demelza Baer: Sure. So back in 2013, which seems like quite a while ago, now the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act saying that it was outdated and not based on current conditions but inviting Congress to create a new coverage formula. For anyone who’s not familiar with Section Five, it’s the provision of the Voting Rights act that’s really at the heart of it that required states and jurisdictions with the history of voting discrimination to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws or practices with either the US Department of Justice or a federal court. This was really a game-changer for our democracy because it protected the right to vote for black voters and other voters of color before an election by blocking discriminatory laws and practices before they want them to affect. Prior to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, discriminatory laws would prevent voters of color from participating in an election before litigation could actually result in the law being struck down. But since Congress has not yet enacted a new coverage formula, Section Five has been dormant since 2013.

And that means that states, cities, and municipalities have been able to enact voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color people with disabilities, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, young people, and senior citizens to vote. And this year, in particular, we’ve seen a rash of voter suppression laws enacted and introduced across the country.

So it’s even more important that the federal government fulfill its role as the bulwark against threats to our democracy and political participation and to ensure that a person’s fundamental right to vote does not depend on where they live. That rather is a basic civic right that everyone can rely on.

Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was recently introduced in the Senate. Can you explain what’s in the bill and why your team has identified it as a priority?

Demelza Baer: So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act recently passed the House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate.

It’s a priority for many reasons. Indeed. It’s a bill that we really vitally need to protect and maintain our democracy. First and foremost, it restores Section Five of the Voting Rights Act by creating a new coverage formula that applies to all states and requires a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the previous 25 years so that only states with a recent history of racial discrimination in voting laws or practices are covered. However for a state or jurisdiction that doesn’t have violations within a certain period of time and has a positive record with no violations, then they would no longer be covered by pre-clearance.

So this is a coverage formula that responds directly to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision by ensuring that the formula is responsive to current conditions. And in addition to restoring Section Five preclearance, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also strengthens Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which applies nationally regardless of jurisdiction’s history.

This year again, we had a bad Supreme Court decision. The decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee ultimately resulted in making it more difficult for lawyers to bring Section Two claims to vindicate voting discrimination. And again, just for anyone who’s not familiar with Section Two versus Section Five, Section Two claims provide protection for voters against both vote dilution, which are schemes that reduce the weight of the voting power of people of color, and vote denial claims, which are standards or procedures that impede people of color from casting votes are having their votes counted. So the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act both strengthened Section Two, and it would also implement a retrogression standard under Section Two, that would protect voters of color from any policy change that would make them worse off than before that change in policy or procedures.

So it’s really a very fundamental law that we really desperately need to be passed. It’s been nearly a decade without Section Five, and it really is a moment where for our democracy, we fundamentally need this law to become, to actually be enacted by Congress.

Lee Buoy: Absolutely. We’ll see if they can pull it off in the Senate.

And so back over to you DeVan, so you touched on this a little bit earlier, but as social media usage in the US has grown we’ve also seen a rise in disinformation. So why is it important that focus on disinformation and who does it mostly affect?

DeVan Hankerson: Well given the threat of harm, the threats of harm, to domestic efforts to build an inclusive democracy and to public health in the case of coronavirus disinformation, the problem of online disinformation diminishes trust in democratic institutions and threatens the very fabric of democracy itself. I’ll just add that earlier this year, we released a paper faxing and their discontents a research agenda for disinformation, race, and gender.

Which addresses the gaps in our understanding about the links between race, gender, and the spread of disinformation, rather racist, misogynistic narratives, and the spread of disinformation. The goal of this work was to outline the areas of exploration for traditional research organizations to undertake.

It’s important that research about online disinformation focuses on the pattern and impacts of misinformation and disinformation on women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, and that the approach be an intersectional one. So understanding impacts, for example, on LGBTQ women of color, for example. CDT is also developing will work in this area, which will be a robust examination of the impacts of this information specifically on political candidates running for elected office, who are women of color. Existing research in this area shows a very pronounced pattern of gender disinformation campaigns, targeting women, politicians from racial, ethnic, religious, or other minoritized groups.

CDT is also working on issues around election-related disinformation. My team, the research team, and the elections team headed up by Will Adler, our Senior Technologists on Elections and Democracy. We’ll be releasing a report that looks at election disinformation from an international perspective actually. We know, for example, that the deployment of false narratives around election security specifically has undermined faith in the democratic process and spawn webs of conspiracy theories. And this is a global trend. This project, the one on election-related disinformation, will focus on some of the ways to improve federal and state coordination to fight election disinformation.

And then more to your question about why it’s important to focus on it. But I think I covered it there. We know that we need to understand a little bit more about how online disinformation translates into offline harm. And we know that more of these are being propelled or shaped by narratives that are first seen in disinformation campaigns.

January 6th insurrection is one example of this. We also need to understand more how disinformation leverages false narratives that may help us improve our efforts to combat online disinformation. And there are also, of course, the suppressive impacts of disinformation, on civic engagement. For example, as I mentioned, this gender disinformation, which are campaigns that promote this narrative, that women are not good political leaders. And they often aim to undermine women by spreading false information about their qualifications, their experience, and their intelligence, sometimes using sexualized imagery as part of their tactics. And on the question of who it affects most, I think in a word that affects us all mostly. The impacts of disinformation are abroad because it has influenced people’s trust in democratic institutions.

And as I mentioned, January 6th attack from the US Capitol demonstrated how online disinformation can have severe offline consequences. Disinformation researchers who’ve worked in this area also have found that mommy and travel blogger personalities on social media, for example, were being mobilized as political nano influencers paid for digital campaign communications sometimes pushing this information from their platform. And as we know broadly speaking, the 2016 Russian-based internet research agencies, campaign targeted conservatives and progressives and people of color on Twitter. And that includes a rather large swath of the American citizenry wouldn’t you say?

Yeah, absolutely.

Lee Buoy: And what measures can policymakers to take to combat this dissemination?

DeVan Hankerson: Sure. So I’ll spend some of the work of our elections team here. And of course our research on disinformation is in gender and our upcoming work on women of color in politics, which employs some of these strategies. One is to raise public awareness about the relationship between mis and disinformation and voter supression. Empower voters and reporters to demand a factual basis for information in public spheres impacting democratic participation, including on social media. Second increase the ability of under-resourced and underfunded elections officials to respond to disinformation, or even get out ahead of it by educating voters about how elections really work.

Third explore opportunities to address the issue by improving coordination among stakeholders fighting disinformation and by building support for disinformation research that explicates the impacts of disinformation across race and gender. And as I mentioned earlier, CDT is already conducting research in this area, but we need other research institutions to also comprehensively assess the disparate impacts of disinformation, particularly among women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, groups that historically have been denied the rights and opportunities to fully participate in US democracy.

Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, very important. And hopefully we’ll see some of those changes be implemented sooner rather than later now over to you, Jessica. So if you weren’t spending your time fighting voter suppression right now, what other initiatives would you focus on to expand active participation in government.

I don’t want to do anything else. So I will say, the league does support bills the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement, act, which Demelza talked about already and the Freedom to Vote Act, and we’re also actively pushing against the 400 or so anti voter bills that were introduced across the country, but we’re also working to support pro voter reform bills, which are also introduced around the country, like the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act, and over 900 actually pieces of legislation addressing those pieces across the country. And kind of hand-in-hand we’re also working on redistricting and gerrymandering which I think is a form of voter suppression. So not exactly addressing your question. But we know that people powered fair maps, which is an initiative that the league is running and redistricting in particular. And if we give people the power to draw the maps, if we give people the power to pick their politicians, instead of the other way around, we can have a more representative society.

And some of the provisions in the national legislation and some of the great reforms across the country in recent years have actually helped to make redistricting more transparent to make sure that there’s a direct connection between voters and those who are drawing the maps, they, we know that there’s opportunities formap drawers, whether it be the legislatures, which controls most of redistricting around the country or some independent redistricting commission, they’re establishing criteria, that account for our communities of interest that cannot account for our minorities, that account for making sure that voters are represented and that there’s more power for normal everyday people in Congress and in legislatures and even on down to like things like school boards and county commission.

And a lot of that is also like DeVan said, fighting, mis and disinformation as well, and ensuring that there’s transparency in the process, that people have the right information and good information to make informed decisions, and that they can they can talk to their legislators about what their community looks like and how it should be included in a map

rather than other things like considering incumbent addresses and just considering where politicians live, actually considering the people and then makeup of communities around the country. So we have fair maps, we have better representation. And then we have better lawmakers and legislators who represent the needs of their constituent.

Lee Buoy: Yeah. I remember learning about gerrymandering, like in government classes in school, but I don’t think it ever really hit me that it was still a thing until my work at Quorum and really us having the data on those maps and seeing how some of them are, some of those districts are just really crazily drawn. Now I’ll say it so very important work there. And now we will open this up to a Q and A from the audience. So feel free to put your questions in the chat and we will try to cover as many as we can in the about 30 minutes that we have left. And so do you all expect there to be any bipartisan action on voting rights? And so I’ll say let’s start with Jessica and then we can anyone else who wants to chime in

Jessica Jones Capparell: can. I’m an incredibly optimistic person. I’m still hopeful that we will find bipartisan agreement somewhere in Congress on voting rights legislation. And, there’ve been a lot of, one thing that we know is that good reforms come from the states and come up into Congress as we have seen some, bipartisan good things happening in states around, around the country. I don’t, I stopped using my crystal ball around the this it’s a little fuzzy right now. I do think that there’s a good, we have good legislation on the table especially in Congress and that there’s a lot of efforts especially from Senator Manchin to bring more Republicans onto the key pieces of legislation that we have been talking about today.

So I’m always hopeful. But it’ll, it’s gonna take a lot of effort and it’s going to take, it’s gonna take a lot of people coming together to do good for the American people to get there.

Lee Buoy: Absolutely. Anything to add there.

Demelza Baer: Yeah. So like Jessica, I’m also optimistic. I think that it’s really a shame that voting rights have become politicized because, just to put this in some historical perspective, just only back in like 2006, when the voting rights act was last reauthorized, it was championed by President George W. Bush. It was passed. It passed the US Senate 98 to zero. That means that a lot of Republican senators who are still in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell voted to and express strong support for reauthorizing, the Voting Rights Act. It passed the House of Representatives by overwhelming majority.

So I’m also optimistic. I think that voting rights are a fundamental right, that we all have to participate in democracy. And it’s essential that we protect them. It’s not a partisan political issue. And I think just in terms of specific hope, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is a Republican from Alaska has been on record with supporting recent versions of the Voting Rights Advancement act, which is now the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And so I have some optimism that we might see some concrete support from her. And there’s other Republican senators who I think are listening to their constituents in their, in the states who maybe aren’t currently a co-sponsor, but maybe would be interested down the road if they hear from their constituents and other groups in their state about how important it is.

Lee Buoy: Absolutely. And DeVan anything to chime in on there?

DeVan Hankerson: No, I think they’ve pretty much covered it.

Lee Buoy: Perfect. This next one we can definitely start with you DeVan and so how do we, as people fight this information with an added note that I’m really asking if I should fight with my dad on Facebook. So I would love to hear your thoughts.

DeVan Hankerson: As individuals, I think, fighting with your relatives on Facebook is probably not the best way. I know that there’ve been some resource, essentially that pointed out that just handing somebody some accurate piece of information isn’t exactly effective. But I would say that there needs to be a lot more systemic attention to this issue because it’s not just an individual problem.

It’s something that is at the platform level. It’s something that state legislators, federal legislators can take action on. And at the individual level, I’m sure, send send credible information to your family members and try to engage them with that information. Point them to sources that provide consistent, accurate, credible authoritative information. And I would say that’s probably at the level of the individual. But I’m pretty sure that there are likely to be advocacy campaigns asking for you to amplify the issue with your representative. So I think when those come around, that’s definitely an opportunity as an individual to apply some pressure on your representatives around those issues.

Lee Buoy: Perfect. Now I just got another question here. So do you all expect mail-in voting to stay? So I’m sure everyone on the call knows we had a lot of mail-in voting laws enacted or just policy changes during the last election due to the pandemic. And so do you all expect that to stay around post pandemic?

Jessica Jones Capparell: I can go first. I think so. Yes. Mail-in voting, isn’t something that’s new or just came about in the 2020 election. You have several states that do it, do only mail-in voting Colorado, Oregon. There are a couple of others who just do mail-in voting and they’ve made those systems work really well.

And then we’ve always had absentee voting. The, I think the difference with the 2020 election is we are in the middle of a pandemic and people needed a safe option to vote from their home and, not risk their health and their safety. So I do expect that mail and voting to continue and to grow and, it’s just about making sure safe and accessible for everyone who wants to do it. And then really if people have the opportunity to vote in the way that they want to do, and if they want to do it by mail-in, they can, but if they also want to go to the polls they can do that as well or vote early. But I do think mail-in voting will stay.

Demelza Baer: The only thing I would add to Jessica’s pretty excellent summary is that there are, obviously some federal bills that are attempting to provide a minimum federal baseline protection for having no excuse absentee voting by mail and a certain number of early voting days.

I think there are some states you really see that the states that have the best policies in terms of having a good number of early voting days and having no excuse absentee voting by mail tend to have the highest voter participation and states with same day voter registration. So really you see a really direct connection, regardless of, there’s a lot of very diverse states who don’t have a lot in common with each other, but what they do have in common is really voter forward laws in terms of both registering to vote and casting a ballot. And so I think that what, some of the things we’ve been working on at the federal level are bills that would create a a minimum federal baseline standard in terms of having a certain number of early voting days, having no excuse absentee voting, and I think you see those provisions in bills like the, For the People Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

Lee Buoy: Awesome. And I’m just throwing this question in. DeVan do you feel that disinformation is a part of getting these things done? So for example, someone may not trust mail in voting based on disinformation that they’ve seen online. Do you feel in order to get the American public on board with mail-in voting to convince some of those lawmakers, those Republican lawmakers who Demelza mentioned may change their mind depending on what they hear from their constituents. Do you feel like disinformation is a big part of that and making sure that their constituents aren’t not supporting this because of disinformation that they’ve seen online?

DeVan Hankerson: Yes. I think that a lot of election disinformation impact how people access electoral information. And I think I mentioned in one of the ways that policymakers that could combat this information is to really think about how to send more resources to underfunded election officials so that they have the ability to respond to disinformation or to even try to get out ahead of it before it happens by educating voters about how elections really work and that includes mail-in voting, absentee voting, those kinds of mechanisms. I think it really is in some cases about providing multiple sources of credible authoritative information. And allowing the American people to be able to turn to a local elections entity for that authoritative credible information, they would have provided, ahead of time and on a consistent basis as well.

Just to add quickly. I think that part of what we’ve seen, at least in our research and not just in English, but also in a non-English language is that there’s an absence of credible authoritative information that’s being disseminated to the public in a consistent fashion. And we’ve seen that become a problem, obviously in non-English language communities.

Lee Buoy: Okay. And we do have another question from the chat. So as an Australian, I’m always surprised by how few people vote in America. Can you imagine enacting compulsory voting? And so let’s start with, Demelza.

Demelza Baer: Thank you. So I, what’s interesting about that question is that I think that for some elections, we do have lower participation rates, but if you look at really a lot of the communities on behalf of which we advocate, people of color, women, people with disabilities, young people, senior citizens, Native Americans, and Alaska natives there are so many barriers to vote right now.

There are so many barriers to register. There are so many barriers to actually cast a ballot, and there’s a lot of people who have to take time off from work, and maybe that’s a barrier. Maybe they have childcare issues. So I think that before we, we went to compulsory, I think if we had nationwide election day was a federal holiday and we had certain minimum protections, like no excuse absentee voting by mail for everyone and a certain number of early voting days I think our voter participation rate would be through the roof if we removed a lot of these barriers to voting.

Jessica Jones Capparell: Yeah, absolutely say the biggest barrier. I agree with Demelza a hundred percent. I think the biggest barrier we know to voting is actually making sure that you’re registered to vote. So in addition to universal, no-excuse absentee, having same-day registration where voters can go to the polls register and cast regular ballots at the same time is really important.

There are other things like automatic voter registration, where if you interact with the DMV or other agency they’ll automatically register you to vote unless you tell them you don’t want to be. Making sure that people can change and update their registration or initiate their registration online is also very important. Removing the key barrier which is just registering I think we’d see a huge amount of participation as well.

Lee Buoy: Now I have another question here. Do you expect voter participation to go down after Trump? So we can start with Jessica this time.

Jessica Jones Capparell: Okay. Let me preface this by saying the League is a non-partisan organization. I think that there is a huge focus on politics and on the issues that affect us more so than any other time, whether it be because of the former president or the current president or the current state of Congress. And I think that voter participation is going to continue to increase because people know that they have to make their voices heard and the best way to do that is to vote.

So I anticipate for our participation to continue to go up, not because of President Trump, but just because of the amount of engagement that people and engagement in I can’t find the word. Just that amount of like engagement and emphasis that they want to have on whatever on all the things that are going on around them.

Demelza Baer: I would echo Jessica’s thoughts and just that right now, we’re in a, we’re in a once in a 100 years global pandemic where we’re dealing with huge structural changes in our economy we’re dealing with issues of police, accountability that has not been resolved through federal legislation. We’re dealing with challenges to the right to vote across the country. There are so many challenges that right now our country is dealing with, including not having address comprehensive immigration reform in decades. There are so many issues that people care about, which affect them, their families, their neighbors, their communities, that I think that we’re going to continue to see pretty high engagement as long as.

People are willing to keep pushing to overcome though the barriers that have been placed in their way, in terms of voting. We saw that last year where there were millions of people who risk their own health to vote during the pandemic in person when they didn’t have other options. And so I just think that we all want to work to get to the place where people don’t have to risk their health or wellbeing or their job or not, knowing who they can leave their child with in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Lee Buoy: Okay. Perfect. And anything else to add there?

DeVan Hankerson: Sorry. I think I turned off my video by mistake. I don’t know if I can add anything. So from a legal perspective, my opinion is more informed by my personal views. So I’ll just say that. I definitely don’t think that voting participation is going to go down.

And I would echo some of what Jessica said, which is that people are really much more aware of the influence that their vote, has on the lives that they live. And I don’t think that you can roll that back. I don’t think that you can like, what is it uncork, the cork, the wine or whatever? And so I think that will continue to I think that the voter participation will continue to grow. And really, I think it’s a reflection of my optimism about the impact of all of the work that we’re doing on that, it will have some greater influence. And I think that there are a lot of smart people working on this issue and it has to make sense. Awesome.

Lee Buoy: And speaking of smart people working on this issue let’s go on to the final question that we’ll have from the audience which is which legislators in the federal government are leading the way on these voting rights protections and things like that? So let’s start with Demelza.

Demelza Baer: So there’s there’s a number of folks in the Senate who’ve been working on some of the bills we’ve been talking about. Senator Leahy has been a champion,Senator Durbin, Senator Warnock from Georgia, Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota has been a champion, especially on a lot of the election access issues.

Senator Manchin as Jessica mentioned, has been working to try to build bipartisan support. And we have seen, Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a champion of the Native American Voting rights Act and a really strong supporter and may show support on some other bills potentially.

And then, in the House, Representative Jerry Nadler has been a champion for these bills as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. And there’s a number of other members and also giving a lot of credit to the Congressional Black Caucus and the house numbers, particularly who have been champions. And there are members who were just always stalwart champions on voting rights and civil rights, like Representative Karen Bass.

Jessica Jones Capparell: Also add Congressman John Sarbanes from Maryland has been a leader in the House. And Congresswoman Terri Sewell from Alabama has been leading the charge on the voting Rights Advancement Act in the House now for years. So those are great. And I also would end on the point, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized, as Demelza talked about it a little bit earlier with bipartisan support every single time, both in the White House and in Congress. And so there are a lot more opportunities for more people to come on board and to get behind some really great legislation that would end discrimination in voting and set national standards for voting around.

Awesome. And any other names to add there? DeVan? No, I think I think Jessica and Demelza covered a lot of them.