Race and Risk of Election Subversion

April 9, 2024 12:15 PM - 1:15 PM
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Sonni Waknin is the Program Manager of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and Voting Rights Counsel. Sonni believes that to ensure an equitable democracy, elections must be free, fair, and devoid of systemic racism. Voting is the right that preserves all other rights and must be defended. Waknin is responsible for managing all aspects of the Voting Rights Project, including the Project’s fellowship program and legal scholarship. She is currently counsel on Soto Palmer et al. v. Hobbs et al. and Portugal et al. v. Franklin County et al. She also recently defended the constitutionality of the Washington Voting Rights Act from a legal challenge. Waknin has wanted to be a voting rights litigator since she was in high school.

Previously, Waknin interned with the ACLU Voting Rights Project and for Common Cause’s National Redistricting Project. She holds her J.D. from UCLA School of Law, is an alumna of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, and holds a B.A. from Rutgers University.

Sophia Lin Lakin is the Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and assists in the planning, strategy and supervision of the ACLU’s voting rights litigation nationwide. Sophia has an active docket protecting voting rights and combatting voter suppression across the country and has led or worked on successful challenges to discriminatory voting laws in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Currently, Sophia is lead counsel in Alpha Phi Alpha v. Raffensperger, a redistricting challenge to Georgia’s state legislative maps, Arkansas State Conference NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment, a redistricting challenge to Arkansas’s state House plan, and the ACLU’s lead counsel in Sixth District of The African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp, a federal lawsuit challenging multiple provisions of Georgia’s sweeping new voter suppression law S.B. 202. Her other cases have included: Common Cause Indiana v. Sullivan (lead counsel in case successfully challenging an unlawful purge program in Indiana); Hotze v. Hollins (co-lead counsel in case defending against attack on the use of drive-thru voting in Harris County, Texas); Trump Campaign v. Boockvar (represented voters against attempt to block certification of 2020 presidential election results); Texas v. Crystal Mason (representing Ms. Mason in her appeal of her conviction and 5-year sentence for allegedly improperly casting a provisional ballot). Sophia has testified on election law issues before Congress and has presented at conferences and conducted voting rights trainings nationwide. She is a frequent commentator on voting rights issues, appearing on television programs including The 11th Hour; and has written opinion pieces for The Hill and The Boston Globe.  Sophia received her J.D. from Stanford Law School. She also received her M.S. in Management Science & Engineering and B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University.

Spencer Overton is the Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University and has researched, published, and taught extensively on democracy and race. He also directs the GW Equity Institute’s Multiracial Democracy Project, which serves as a bridge between scholars, policymakers, civil rights organizations, and democracy groups to tackle challenges like racialized disinformation, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. He is currently working on research projects related to the regulation of AI to facilitate a well-functioning multiracial democracy and the implications of alternative voting systems for multiracial democracy.  Professor Overton held several senior leadership roles during the Obama campaign, transition, and Administration. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he led over 140 experts as chair of the campaign’s Government Reform Policy committee. On the transition, he chaired the Election Assistance Commission Agency Review Team, served on the Federal Election Commission Agency Review Team, and helped write the Administration’s ethics guidelines while serving in the office of the General Counsel. During the Administration, he was appointed as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, and partnered with other senior officials in leading the Administration’s democracy policy efforts related to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Administration’s response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate spending in federal elections.  Professor Overton practiced law at the firm Debevoise & Plimpton, clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith, and graduated with honors from both Hampton University and Harvard Law School.

Professor Richard L. Hasen is an internationally recognized expert in election law, writing as well in the areas of legislation and statutory interpretation, remedies, and torts. He is co-author of leading casebooks in election law and remedies. Hasen served in 2020 as a CNN Election Law Analyst and as an NBC News/MSNBC Election Law Analyst in 2022. He directs UCLA Law’s Safeguarding Democracy Project. From 2001-2010, he served (with Dan Lowenstein) as founding co-editor of the quarterly peer-reviewed publication, Election Law Journal. He is the author of over 100 articles on election law issues, published in numerous journals including the Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and Supreme Court Review. He was elected to The American Law Institute in 2009 and serves as Reporter (with Professor Douglas Laycock) on the ALI’s law reform project: Restatement (Third) of Torts: Remedies. He also is an adviser on the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Concluding Provisions. His op-eds and commentaries have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Politico, and Slate. Hasen also writes the often-quoted Election Law Blog, which the ABA Journal named to its “Blawg 100 Hall of Fame” in 2015. The Green Bag recognized his 2018 book, The Justice of Contradictions: Antonin Scalia and the Politics of Disruption, for exemplary legal writing, and his 2016 book, Plutocrats United, received a Scribes Book Award Honorable Mention. His 2022 book, Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics—and How to Cure It, was named one of the four best books on disinformation by the New York Times. His new book, A Real Right to Vote: How a Constitutional Amendment Can Safeguard American Democracy, will be published by Princeton University Press in February 2024.