Our State Courts: The Sleeper Seats of Power

Our State Courts: The Sleeper Seats of Power

Session Type(s): Panel

Starts: Friday, Aug. 19 11:00 AM (Eastern)

Ends: Friday, Aug. 19 12:00 PM (Eastern)

Room: 315/316

Our state courts hold tremendous power in our system of government. They can help ensure fair district maps, protect our freedom to vote, and even safeguard reproductive freedom. As state courts have taken center stage in these debates over our essential freedoms, extremist politicians are ramping up their attacks on fair and independent courts, and conservative dark money groups are preparing to dump tens of millions of dollars into state supreme court races this year. Join us to learn what’s at stake in your state and across the country, as state courts and constitutions play an increasingly central role in protecting voting rights and reproductive rights.

Moderator

Kirstin Alvanitakis

Kirstin Alvanitakis is the Program Director for the Inclusive Democracy team with ReThink Media’s Democracy Collaborative. Kirstin brings nearly two decades of experience in government, political, and advocacy communications to her role at ReThink, where she works on issues related to money in politics, judicial independence, and state-level campaigns.

In her previous position with the Ohio Democratic Party, she worked behind the scenes to support state and local candidates, helping to elect three new Ohio Supreme Court justices and bring balance to the state’s highest court. She spearheaded earned media strategy and created innovative digital content to highlight the real-world issues at stake in these critical elections.

Kirstin has a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she completed her thesis on news framing of the Middle East and foreign policy decision making, and a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University.

When she isn’t working, Kirstin is probably chasing around after a very active toddler.

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Panelists

Douglas Keith

Douglas Keith is Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Judiciary Program, where he works to realize a fair and inclusive judicial system that protects fundamental rights and democratic values. Previously, he was the George A. Katz Fellow at the Brennan Center, working on matters related to money in politics, voting rights, and redistricting. Keith’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Atlantic, Guardian, New York Daily News, and more. Keith previously worked as a Ford Foundation fellow at Advancement Project, organized voting rights advocates in New York, served as an international election observer for the National Democratic Institute and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and trained poll workers for the New York City Board of Elections. Keith is a graduate of NYU School of Law and Duke University.

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Kadida Kenner

Kadida Kenner

Kadida Kenner is the CEO of the New Pennsylvania Project and the New PA Project Education Fund, both are voting rights organizations modeled after the successful New Georgia Project. The New Pennsylvania Project’s primary focus is to civically engage, register, mobilize and empower often-ignored constituents, especially the youth, and communities of color in rural, urban, and suburban Pennsylvania to transform and expand the electorate in the Commonwealth.

Kadida is a tireless advocate for social and economic justice issues and is motivated to empower and excite the electorate to enthusiastically vote in every election — all the way down the entire ballot. In addition to working on voting rights, Kadida also serves as co-chair of Why Courts Matter – Pennsylvania, an advocacy campaign seeking to protect the independence of our state and federal courts, and educate the electorate about their importance. The Temple University graduate resides in the Philly suburbs and counts civil rights organizing icon, and Pennsylvania native Bayard Rustin as her hero.

Other sessions: How to Fight Back Against Intentional Discrimination of Voting Rights

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Renee Parker Sekander

renee.parkersekander

Renee Parker Sekander was born and raised in Memphis, TN and graduated from University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2016. The first time Renee ever voted, she faced so many obstacles that she left the polls feeling like the process was too hard to navigate.

She was a college student at the time, and registered in Shelby County, 6 hours away from where she was studying. Unaware that first time voters who register to vote online must vote in person in their first election, she unexpectedly had to drive a collective 12 hours to cast a ballot. Strict laws and barriers make Tennessee one of the hardest places in the country to cast a vote, which contributes to our low voter turnout and low voter confidence as a state.

Sekander went on to work at human rights nonprofits like Amnesty International USA serving as the Canvass Director for their Los Angeles office. During the 2020 Presidential race, Renee served in Mobilization Director and Regional Field Directors positions on the Warren campaign, Amy McGrath campaign, and the coordinated campaign for Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia.

Now, Renee serves Organize Tennessee as Executive Director. Her goal? Protect every single Tennessee voter and defend our democracy.

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Melissa Price Kromm

Melissa Price Kromm

Melissa Price Kromm is the Director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, where she has served as its lobbyist and leader of the statewide pro-democracy coalition for the past twelve years. The coalition coordinates advocacy in structural democracy, voting rights, campaign finance reform, government ethics and transparency, redistricting reform, judicial independence, the right to protest, and election crisis prevention. Kromm led efforts to pass campaign finance disclosure reform, voting rights reform, and stop attacks on judicial independence. Recently, Kromm led the coalition to stop bills promoting campaign finance secrecy, attacking the freedom to vote, limiting the right to protest, and spearheaded pioneering legislation to prevent election subversion. Before joining North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, Kromm was part of a successful effort to pass same-day voter registration at early voting sites in North Carolina and pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds.

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