Saving the Vote in 2020: Elections and the Coronavirus
May 4, 2020
The coronavirus is a health crisis and an economic crisis. Without urgent action, it will become a democracy crisis in November. Already, in Wisconsin, we saw citizens forced to choose between their health and their right to vote. The president has begun to loudly oppose needed changes. How can we avoid a debacle? How can we have an election that is free, fair, secure – and safe?
The Brennan Center for Justice is at the center of the fight to protect every voter and every vote. In April 2020, the Center released a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and credibility of the election. Among its provisions: universal option to vote by mail and expanded early voting. Congress must act to provide funding for states to run their elections. Then a drive across the country so states can retool their systems so everyone can safely vote.
We invited the public to join us for a special briefing on this urgent topic. In a virtual discussion moderated by Brennan Center president Michael Waldman, leading election experts Wendy Weiser, Larry Norden, and Myrna Pérez discussed how to ensure election integrity, provided updates on the fight in Congress, and pointed to what states and citizens must do next. And we discussed ways to make sure this never happens again.
This event was produced by the Brennan Center for Justice and New York University's John Brademas Center.
Larry Norden, Director, Election Reform, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Lawrence Norden is the director of the Election Reform Program, where he leads the Brennan Center’s work in a variety of areas, including its effort to bring balance to campaign funding and break down barriers that keep Americans from participating in politics, ensure that U.S. election infrastructure is secure and accessible to every voter, and protect elections from foreign interference. His work has been featured in media outlets across the country, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. He has testified before Congress and several state legislatures on numerous occasions.
In 2009, Norden served as chair of the Ohio secretary of state's bipartisan Election Summit and Conference, authoring a report to the State of Ohio on improving that state’s election laws. The report was endorsed by the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials and the Columbus Dispatch, which praised the report for “following an independent path.”
Norden was the keynote speaker at the Sixth Annual Votobit International Conference on Electronic Voting (Buenos Aires, 2008) and the 2009 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections (Montreal, 2009). In June 2009, he received the Usability Professional Association's Usability In Civic Life Award for his “pioneering work to improve elections.”
Norden is the lead author of the book The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World (Academy Chicago Press, 2006) and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (Routledge, 2006). He is a member of the Election Assistance Commission’s Board of Advisors, where he currently serves as vice chair of the Election Security Committee. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU School of Law.
Myrna Pérez, Director, Voting Rights & Elections, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Myrna Pérez is director of the Brennan Center's Voting Rights and Elections Program, and leads the Program's research, advocacy, and litigation work nationwide. An expert on voting rights and election administration, she is the author of several nationally recognized reports and articles. Her work has been featured in media outlets across the country, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and MSNBC. She has testified before Congress and several state legislatures on a variety of voting rights related issues. She is a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School and has also served as an adjunct professor of clinical law at NYU School of Law.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Pérez was the Civil Rights Fellow at Relman, Dane & Colfax, a civil rights law firm in Washington, DC. She graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Lowenstein Public Interest Fellow. Following law school, Pérez clerked for Hon. Anita B. Brody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and for Hon. Julio M. Fuentes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She previously served as the chair of the Election Law Committee of the City of New York Bar Association. Pérez is the recipient of several awards, including the Puerto Rican Bar Association Award for Excellence in Academia and the New Jersey League of Women Voters Making Democracy Work Award, and was named one of 2014’s 50 Hispanic Influentials by Hispanic Business.
Pérez earned her undergraduate degree in political science from Yale University. She obtained a master's degree in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School, where she was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Public Service. Prior to law school, she was a Presidential Management Fellow, serving as a policy analyst for the United States Government Accountability Office on issues including housing and health care.
Michael Waldman, President, Brennan Center for Justice
Michael Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. A nonpartisan law and policy institute that focuses on improving systems of democracy and justice, the Brennan Center is a leading national voice on voting rights, money in politics, criminal justice reform, and constitutional law. Waldman, a constitutional lawyer and writer who is an expert on the presidency and American democracy, has led the Center since 2005.
Waldman was director of speechwriting for President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1999, serving as assistant to the president. He was responsible for writing or editing nearly two thousand speeches, including four State of the Union and two inaugural addresses. He was special assistant to the president for policy coordination from 1993 to 1995.
He is the author of The Fight to Vote (Simon & Schuster, 2016), a history of the struggle to win voting rights for all citizens. The Washington Post wrote, “Waldman’s important and engaging account demonstrates that over the long term, the power of the democratic ideal prevails — as long as the people so demand.” The Wall Street Journal called it “an engaging, concise history of American voting practices,” and the Miami Herald described it as “an important history in an election year.” The Fight to Vote was a Washington Post notable nonfiction book for 2016 and a History Book Club main selection.
Waldman is also the author of The Second Amendment: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Publishers Weekly called it “the best narrative of its subject.” In the New York Times, Joe Nocera called it “rigorous, scholarly, but accessible.” The Los Angeles Times wrote, “[Waldman’s] calm tone and habit of taking the long view offers a refreshing tonic in this most loaded of debates.” In a Cardozo Law Review symposium devoted to the book, a historian wrote, “The Second Amendment is, without doubt, among the best efforts at melding constitutional history and constitutional law on any topic — at least since the modern revival of originalism two generations ago.”
His previous books are My Fellow Americans: The Most Important Speeches of America’s Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama (2003, 2010), A Return to Common Sense (2007), POTUS Speaks (2000), and Who Robbed America? A Citizen’s Guide to the S&L Scandal (1990).
His frequent appearances on television and radio to discuss policy, the presidency, and the law include Good Morning America, the Colbert Report, Morning Joe, PBS NewsHour, CBS Evening News, Meet the Press Daily, All In with Chris Hayes, the O’Reilly Factor, Nightline, 60 Minutes, Tavis Smiley, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and the Rachel Maddow Show, as well as NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Fresh Air.
He writes for the New York Times, Politico, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Slate, Democracy, Reuters, Bloomberg, and other national publications.He is a graduate of Columbia College and NYU School of Law.
Wendy Weiser, Vice President, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice
Wendy Weiser directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a nonpartisan think tank and public interest law center that works to revitalize, reform, and defend systems of democracy and justice. Her program focuses on voting rights and elections, money in politics and ethics, redistricting and representation, government dysfunction, rule of law, and fair courts. She founded and directed the program’s Voting Rights and Elections Project, directing litigation, research, and advocacy efforts to enhance political participation and prevent voter disenfranchisement across the country.
She has authored a number of nationally recognized publications and articles on voting rights and election reform, litigated groundbreaking lawsuits on democracy issues, testified before both houses of Congress and in a variety of state legislatures, and provided legislative and policy drafting assistance to federal and state legislators and administrators across the country.
She is a frequent public speaker and media commentator on democracy issues. She has appeared on CBS News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, ABC News, and NPR, among others; her commentary has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and elsewhere; and she is frequently quoted by the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Journal, Politico, and other news outlets across the country. She has also served as an adjunct professor at NYU School of Law.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Weiser was a senior attorney at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she worked on issues of access to the courts and domestic violence; a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and a law clerk to Judge Eugene H. Nickerson in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She received her BA from Yale College and her JD from Yale Law School.