Courts, COVID-19 & Voter Suppression - Richard Hasen, Alan Hirsch, Abdi Soltani, Lala Wu - 05/14/2020 - 9:00pm

Courts, COVID-19 & Voter Suppression


Presented in partnership with the Bay Area Book Festival, Richard Hasen, Alan Hirsch, Abdi Soltani, and Lala Wu discuss the courts' role in protecting our right to vote amid the pandemic. Watch the event online


We’ve all seen the images from the recent in-person election in Wisconsin: people lined up wearing masks, some holding signs saying “THIS IS RIDICULOUS,” as they risked deadly COVID-19 illness and violated a shelter-in-place order simply to exercise the right to vote. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this scenario was the fact that it wouldn’t have happened without a last-minute ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that rolled back an absentee ballot extension period that had been put in place expressly to mitigate contagion potential from in-person voting. With less than six months to go until the 2020 Presidential election, and with the COVID-19 pandemic expected to remain in full force, can we expect a repeat of the debacle in Wisconsin—this time, on a national scale? In the aftermath of 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder verdict that shattered the Voting Rights Act, how much can we rely on our courts as the last line of defense in our right to vote?


Three nationally recognized experts will lead us through the role of the courts in ensuring voters’ access to vital options like absentee ballots and early voting, and show us how everyday citizens can act now to shape the judiciary in the short and long term. Featuring legal scholar Richard Hasen, whose Election Meltdown was deemed “required reading for legislators and voters” by Kirkus in a starred review; Constitutional scholar Alan Hirsch, whose A Short History of Presidential Election Crises was praised as “lucid, balanced, and deeply informed” by Elizabeth Kolbert; and renowned civil rights leader Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. Moderated by Lala Wu, whose Sister District Project enlists 40,000 women nationwide in the fight to win crucial state legislative elections.

Richard Hasen

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Richard L. Hasen is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. In 2013 he was named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, and his previous books include Voting WarsPlutocrats United, and The Justice of Contradictions.

Recent Book
Election Meltdown

Alan Hirsch

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Alan Hirsch, Instructor in the Humanities and Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College, is the author of numerous works of legal scholarship and many books including Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future and For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights (Free Press, coauthored with Akhil Amar). He received a J.D. from Yale Law School and B.A. from Amherst College. His work has appeared in the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesWashington TimesNewsday, and the Village Voice. Hirsch also serves as a trial consultant and expert witness on interrogations and criminal confessions, testifying around the nation. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusettes.   

Recent Book
A Short History of Presidential Election Crises

Abdi Soltani

Presenter photo

Abdi Soltani is a nationally-recognized civil rights leader who has dedicated his adult life to social justice and equal treatment for all. His early work as an organizer helped change California from a state that passed some of the most regressive policies in the mid-90’s to a state that is among the most progressive in our nation. As Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California since 2009, Abdi’s fight for civil liberties has been expansive and inclusive of racial, gender, and economic justice. He has deepened ACLU’s partnerships with communities most directly impacted by injustice and disparities. Under his leadership, the ACLU is now present in the Central Valley and at the State Capitol. This expansion has enabled the ACLU to defend and advance the civil liberties of all Californians and to mobilize our communities as a collective voice for fairness and equity. Abdi is a Levi Strauss Foundation Pioneer in Justice Fellow, and he is actively involved in the Iranian-American community. His favorite amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the 14th Amendment.