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Our Top Insights from Spring 2024

This semester, Ash Center researchers offered a solution to partisan gerrymandering, provided real-time data on protests across the country, outlined a pathway for better AI development, and more.

Rows on books on a library shelf

How can we prevent AI from derailing our democracy? Is there an ethical way to police a protest? The Ash Center has always worked to answer some of the most-pressing questions around democracy, and this semester was no exception. From offering solutions to redistricting reform to documenting nationwide protests, Ash Center scholars authored novel research and produced actionable insights.   

Explore some of this spring’s most popular books, articles, and essays below. To stay up to date on the latest Ash Center scholarship, subscribe to our newsletter 

Campus Protests and Police Force: An Ethical Framework

Archon Fung

This timely essay looks at a wave of campus protests and asks if civil disobedience is permissible, and how much disruption should be tolerated at universities today. 

Civil Disobedience and Democracy on Campus

Archon Fung and Khalil Gibran Muhammad  

In a two-part conversation, Archon Fung and Khalil Gibran Muhammad discuss campus protests, civil disobedience, and the role speech and democracy as universities across the country grapple with how to respond to this latest wave of protest activity.  

Crowd Counting Consortium: Three Things the Pro-Palestine Movement Is Not

Jay Ulfelder 

This Crowd Counting Consortium analysis sets the record straight on arrest numbers and claims of violence stemming from protests sparked by the war in Gaza. 

Jail-Based Voting in the District of Columbia: A Case Study

Tova Wang 

A new case study explores how the District of Columbia became one of the first jurisdictions in the country to make its central jail an early voting center and set up a polling place inside the facility. 

See also: Recommendations for Implementing Jail Voting: Identifying Common Themes and Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review 

The Real Dangers of Generative AI

Danielle Allen, E. Glen Weyl  

This Journal of Democracy article explores what the authors deem a significant threat facing democracy today — generative AI. Allen and Weyl argue that while generative foundation models (GFMs) like OpenAI’s GPT-4 may develop new and innovative forms of communication, they could also enable large-scale deception and surveillance.   

How politicians can draw fairer election districts − the same way parents make kids fairly split a piece of cake

Benjamin Schneer, Kevin DeLuca, and Maxwell Palmer 

Is it possible to reduce partisan gerrymandering while still involving political parties in redistricting? This article outlines a new way to draw political maps that does just that: the Define–Combine Procedure (DCP) 

What role can sports teams play in 2024 voter turnout?

Tova Wang, Scott Pioli  

In recent years, professional sports teams have ramped up civic engagement initiatives — from voter education to get-out-the-vote drives. The Ash Center sat down with senior researcher Tova Wang and NFL Network analyst Scott Pioli to better understand what role teams can play in fostering civic engagement. 

How AI will change democracy

Bruce Schneier 

Artificial intelligence is coming for our democratic politics, from how politicians’ campaign to how the legal system functions, warns Schneier. 

India’s Surprising Election Results A “Watershed Moment”

Gautum Nair 

Following a national election in India, Assistant Professor of Public Policy Gautam Nair sat down with the Ash Center to discuss what the results portend for the world’s largest democracy. 

From Crisis to Opportunity: How the City of Portland Embraced Democratic Innovation

Archon Fung, Max Kiefel, and Nick Chedli Carter  

In this case study of democratic innovation at the local level, the authors answer the questions: Why, in 2022, was voting representation and democratic reform firmly on Portland’s agenda? Did this shift contribute to Portlanders passing Measure 26-228? 

Expanding Open Access at Ash

For over 20 years, the Ash Center has served as a hub for democracy research, analysis, and discussion at Harvard. We firmly believe democracy relies on the free exchange of ideas — and as an academic research institution, that our scholarship should be as accessible as we can make it. To that end, the Ash Center is marking its two decades by making several important works on democracy and self-government authored by our scholars available to download free of charge as part of our new Open Access Scholarship Initiative.

Read Our Open Access Policy