Local and state election officials in the United States — who work hard to run accurate and secure voting processes — are finding that facts are not a sufficient defense of their election outcomes. Despite the rigorous steps that protect voter registration, ballot distribution, election systems and vote counting, conspiracy theories are undermining the public's trust in this most basic act of a democracy. To combat this problem, experts from around the nation analyze the problem to provide actionable steps so election administrators can go on the offense to manage communications before, during and after an election.
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Lawrence Jacobs, Mondale Chair, Humphrey School
- Opening Framing Remarks
Judd Choate, Director, Division of Elections, Colorado Department of State
- The Power of Communications
Dan Carpenter, Freed Professor of Government, Harvard University
Pam Fessler, former correspondent, NPR News
Jacobo Licona, Disinformation Researcher, Equis Labs
Moderator: Judd Choate, Director, Division of Elections, Colorado Department of State
- Maricopa County Election Review
Stephen Richer, Maricopa Recorder
Megan Gilbertson, Director of Communications, Maricopa County
Jen Fifield, Arizona Reporter, VoteBeat
Moderator: Tammy Patrick, Senior Advisor, Elections Program, Democracy Fund
- State Innovations
Karen Brinson Bell, Chief State Elections Official, North Carolina
Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State
Sambo (Bo) Dul, Senior Counsel, States United Democracy Center
Moderator: Jessica Huseman, Editorial Director, Votebeat
*The first few minutes of the State Innovations Panel recording are unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience.
- The Role of Communications in Administration of Elections and a Healthy Democracy
Wendy Underhill, Director of Elections and Redistricting, National Conference of State Legislatures
Jennifer Morrell, Partner, The Elections Group
Avery Davis Roberts, Associate Director, Democracy Program, The Carter Center
Moderator: Gowri Ramachandran, Senior Counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center
Judd Choate - Closing Remarks
Karen Brinson Bell
Karen Brinson Bell has served as executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections since June 2019. She has worked in elections administration since 2006 in county, state, and national roles. As North Carolina’s chief elections official, she leads about 95 full-time employees at the state agency, which is charged with administering elections and campaign finance compliance, overseeing the 100 county boards of elections, and ensuring voting for more than 7 million voters.
Daniel Carpenter directs Radcliffe’s social sciences program, and is the Allie S. Freed Professor of Government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. He combines theoretical, historical, statistical, and mathematical analyses to examine the development of political institutions, particularly in North America, focusing on petitioning systems, public bureaucracies, and government regulation.
Judd Choate is director of elections in the Colorado Department of State, a position he has held since 2009.
Sambo (Bo) Dul
Bo Dul is Senior Counsel at the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing free, fair, and secure elections and connecting state and local officials and pro-democracy partners with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. Prior to recently joining States United, Bo served as General Counsel and, before that, State Elections Director in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. Before the Secretary of State’s Office, Bo was a Partner in the Political Law Group at Perkins Coie LLP, where she focused on election and voting rights litigation, international anti-corruption compliance and investigations, and immigrant and refugee rights matters.
Pam Fessler was an editor and correspondent at NPR News for more than 28 years. As a correspondent on the National Desk, she covered voting issues, poverty, and philanthropy.For much of her time at NPR, she reported on elections and voting, including efforts to make voting more accessible, accurate, and secure. She did countless stories on everything from the debate over state voter laws to Russian hacking attempts and the impact of misinformation. Her first book, Carville’s Cure: Leprosy, Stigma, and the Fight for Justice, was published in 2020.
Lawrence R. Jacobs is McKnight Presidential Chair in Public Affairs, the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies, and director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey School and the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. Jacobs has published 16 books and edited volumes and dozens of articles on elections, legislative and presidential politics, elections and public opinion, and a range of public policies.
Jennifer Morrell is a former local election official and recognized expert in election audits. As a partner at The Elections Group, she consults on election administration and auditing. She works as a consultant with Democracy Fund leading the Election Validation Project, aimed at increasing trust in elections through rigorous audits,standards, and testing. She was an election official for nine years (2009-2018) in Utah and Colorado, is an Election Center CERA graduate, holds a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University, and is a veteran of the United States Air Force.
Tammy Patrick is a senior advisor to the Elections program at Democracy Fund. Focusing on modern elections, she joined Democracy Fund in 2017 to help lead the effort to foster a voter-centric elections system and work to provide election officials across the country with the tools and knowledge they need to best serve their voters.
Gowri Ramachandran serves as senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Elections & Government program. Her work focuses on election security, election administration, and combatting election disinformation. She serves on the Ninth Circuit’s Fairness Committee, which considers racial, religious, gender, and other disparities in the administration of justice.
Stephen Richer is the Maricopa County Recorder. He was elected in November 2020 and assumed office in January 2021. As Recorder, he runs an office of 165 full time employees and is responsible for the recording of public documents, the county’s voter registration database of 2.6 million voters, and, together with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, administering county elections.
Avery Davis Roberts
Avery Davis Roberts is the Associate Director of the Democracy Program at The Carter Center.
Jocelyn Benson is the Secretary of State of Michigan.
Jessica Huseman is the editorial director of Votebeat. She was previously the lead elections reporter for ProPublica, and helped manage the Electionland project for three federal election cycles, sharing information and tips with hundreds of newsrooms across the United States.
Megan Gilbertson is the Director of Communications for the Maricopa County Elections Department and is responsible for overseeing election communications for the second largest voting jurisdiction in the country. In her role, Megan has lead the creation of the award winning BeBallotReady.Vote voter education campaign and was instrumental in launching JusttheFacts.Vote, a site dedicated to combating mis- dis- and mal- information through transparency into the elections process.
Prior to joining the County, Megan worked in the non-profit sector overseeing media relations, communications strategy and organizational branding. In her career, Megan has been quoted in publications throughout the state, nation and world on topics ranging from elections, to education to water policy.
A Minnesota native, Megan got her start in Arizona as a newspaper reporter primarily covering education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Dakota. Megan lives in Phoenix with her husband and two young sons. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, biking and exploring Arizona’s campgrounds with her family.
Jacobo Licona is a disinformation researcher for Equis Labs, a research and experimentation hub identifying new ways to reach and engage Latino voters. Prior to working for Equis, Jacobo helped lead research efforts for two presidential campaigns and various campaign committees. He’s also provided research and communications support for progressive and Latinx organizations.
Wendy Underhill is director of elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). She leads a team of policy analysts who support the work of legislators and legislative staff. Underhill has been with NCSL for eleven years, broadening her portfolio over time from just elections to including campaign finance, redistricting, the census, ballot measures and election outcomes. She is sought after for her expertise by major media outlets, and credits her expertise largely to listening to local election officials.
Jen Fifield is the Arizona Reporter for Vote Beat