Gideon Cohn-Postar (Andrea Mitchell Center)
Mara Suttmann-Lea (Connecticut College)
Kurt Sampsel (Center for Tech and Civic Life)
Moderator: Sophia Rosenfeld (Penn History)
Co-sponsored by the Penn Department of History
RECENT ELECTION CONTROVERSIES HAVE INTENSIFIED Americans’ attention to the threat of voter suppression to the conduct and legitimacy of our elections. Yet, increasingly innovative techniques to suppress and disrupt the vote have long been a part of American elections and those in other nations. It is impossible to tell the story of the expansion of the suffrage without also grappling with the ways that otherwise qualified voters have been barred from the polls. This panel is focused on exploring how voter suppression operates, when, why, and against whom it has been most widespread and effective, and what the state of voter suppression is in the US and the world today. We will also discuss ways to combat voter suppression and what we can do individually to create a more representative democracy.
GIDEON COHN-POSTAR is the Jack Miller Center Postdoctoral Fellow at the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania. Cohn-Postar’s research examines voter coercion and the construction of political legitimacy in the 19th century. His dissertation explored how economic forms of voter intimidation shaped the emergence of ballot secrecy in the United States and influenced American political culture to this day.
MARA SUTTMANN-LEA, of the Department of Government and International Relations at Connecticut College is an expert in the unintended consequences of voting reform laws. Suttman-Lea’s forthcoming book “Convenience at a Cost: The Unintended Consequences of Voting Reforms,” explores how political actors have responded to and shaped the effects of Early Voting and Same Day Registration reforms. She has also published widely on the implications of voter education programs and vote by mail ballot rejections.
KURT SAMPSEL is Senior Project Manager at the Center for Tech and Civic Life. Trained as an academic, Kurt has a Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University. At CTCL, Kurt helps election departments improve the voter experience by providing them with training courses, tech tools, and implementation support.
Moderated by SOPHIA ROSENFELD, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania