Communiqué: A Look Back at the Center’s Fall Democracy Seminars

December 12, 2012
Communiqué: A Look Back at the Center’s Fall Democracy Seminars
Alex Keyssar, with Trey Grayson, Tova Wang, John Fund, and Jennie Bowser at Protecting the Vote Forum event

Protecting the Vote: Suppression, Fraud, and the Future of Voter ID Laws

By Kate Hoagland – Communiqué: Fall 2012, Volume 11

The Ash Center kicked off its Democracy Seminar Series with a spirited debate assessing the increasing number of voter laws in the 2011-2012 election cycle and the implications of the politicization of election administration by state legislatures. Held at the JFK Jr. Forum and co-sponsored by the Harvard Institute of Politics as part of its election series, the event featured Jennie Bowser, senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures; John Fund, senior editor of The American Spectator; Alex Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, HKS; and Tova Wang, senior democracy fellow of Demos and fellow at The Century Foundation.

Bowser set the context for the event by explaining trends around three notable areas in voter registration: increased state regulation of voter registration drives; shortened and more restricted periods for early voting; and an increase in voter ID laws, which she estimated could be implemented in upwards of 33 states during the November 2012 election. Wang argued that states are “cherry picking who they will allow to vote by requiring certain types of identification that certain populations just don’t have,” thus deterring groups of voters that typically vote Democratic. Fund took the counter position citing a recent Pew Research Report that found one out of every eight U.S. voter registrations was invalid or contained serious errors and noting a number of incidents where voters had cast ballots under names of the deceased. “I think we are seeing a set of changes in the social composition of the electorate which in current circumstances one major party has found to be threatening,” explained Professor Keyssar, “because most of those people, to the extent that they are voting, are voting for Democrats.”

During the fall semester, the Ash Center held the following additional seminars and screenings:

        • October 10, 2012: Communication in a Post Truth Age of Politics - Christopher Robichaud, Harvard Kennedy School and Jason Stanley, Rutgers University

        • October 18, 2012: We’re Not Broke: Film Screening & Panel Discussion - Phineas Baxandall, MASSPIRG; Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy Studies; Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School; Co-sponsored by MASSPIRG

        • November 9, 2012: Grassroots Democracy: How Would It Work? - Congressman John Sarbanes, Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District; Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University; Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School; Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School; and Spencer Overton, George Washington University Law School; Co-sponsored by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

        • November 14, 2012: Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama - Daniel Kreiss, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill