Session Type(s): Featured Keynote Panel
Starts: Thursday, Aug. 13 2:00 PM (Eastern)
Ends: Thursday, Aug. 13 3:30 PM (Eastern)
Join us for a discussion of key voting rights and election issues leading into the 2020 presidential election with the Democratic election officials on the front lines of protecting the vote. Voter suppression, election integrity and security, gerrymandering and the upcoming census are at the forefront of our electoral conversations. And with COVID-19 looming, how can we ensure that November’s elections are safe and that everyone is able to exercise their right to vote? This panel provides an opportunity to have an open discussion with Democratic Secretaries of State about their roles in ensuring the 2020 election—and all future elections—are safe, accessible and that all votes are counted.
Vincent Warren is a leading expert on racial justice, criminal justice and discriminatory policing. He is the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). He oversees CCR’s groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work, which uses international and domestic law to challenge human rights abuses, including racial, gender and LGBT injustice. Under his
leadership, CCR successfully challenged the NYPD’s Stop-and- Frisk policy, ended long-term solitary confinement in California’s Pelican Bay Prison, and the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. Among many other things, CCR is currently challenging the profiling of Muslims, the persecution of LGBTI people in Uganda and developing strategic defenses against immigration raids, as well as providing legal and policy support to Black organizers in the Movement for Black Lives. Previously, Vince was involved in monitoring South Africa’s historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, was a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU and a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn. He is a graduate of Haverford College and Rutgers School of Law.
Jocelyn Benson is the Secretary of State of Michigan. She is also the former Dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan, a co-founder of the Military Spouses of Michigan and a board member of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. She is the author of State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process.
Jena Griswold is Colorado’s 39th Secretary of State and the youngest Secretary of State in the country. She grew up working class in rural Colorado and knows how important it is for everyday Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy. In 2019, Griswold spearheaded and passed into law one of the largest democracy reform packages in the nation. This year, she is a leading voice in expanding mail ballots to every eligible American.
Before assuming office, Griswold had practiced international anti-corruption law, business law, election law, and ran a small business. She also served as the Director of the Colorado Governor’s DC Office, where she helped bring back hundreds of millions of relief dollars to help the Colorado communities hit by the 2013 flood. In 2018, Jena was elected as the first democratic Secretary of State in Colorado since 1958, the first democratic woman Secretary of State in Colorado’s history, and only the 10th woman in Colorado’s history to hold current statewide constitutional office.
Denise W. Merrill is currently serving her second term as Connecticut’s 73rd Secretary of the State. As Connecticut’s chief elections official and business registrar, Merrill has focused on modernizing Connecticut’s elections and business services, and improving access to public records.
Secretary Merrill has supported and expanded democratic participation, ensuring that every citizen’s rights and privileges are protected and that every vote is counted accurately. She has worked to expand voter participation through Election Da, online, and automatic voter registration (through the DMV). She has also improved Connecticut’s democratic accountability and integrity with a series of rapid response processes to Election Day problems. She served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State for the 2016-17 term and serves on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Secretary Merrill is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is licensed to practice law in the state of California, and is a classically trained pianist. She lives in Hartford. Her family includes husband Dr. Stephen Leach and his two sons, her three grown children, and five grandchildren.