With presidential campaigns and candidate debates underway, the 2024 elections are coming into focus. But given the continuing shadow of the January 6 insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election outcomes, understanding the dangers to American democracy and the ways in which government institutions, organizations, community activists, and others must come together to safeguard America’s political systems is essential. The University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) and The Guardian have co-organized a September 26, 2023, event, free and open to the public, to address those key questions.
“With so much at stake for the future of America's democracy, it is crucial to have civil discourse involving key Democratic and Republican officials as well as community organizations on the frontlines of safeguarding the 2024 elections,” said Robert Pape, Professor in the Department of Political Science and CPOST director. “Partnering with The Guardian, one of the world’s leading news organizations, allows our event to reach important elite and public audiences in the United States, Europe and Beyond – so vital when democracy is under attack around the world.”
The event, “Democracy and Distrust: Overcoming threats to the 2024 election,” will focus on how false narratives and political conspiracy theories amplify distrust of elections and erode democratic norms of restraint — especially as surveys point to disturbing levels of public anger and support for political violence ahead of the 2024 election. The participating experts will discuss the dangers facing American democracy. and the ways our frontline democratic institutions and community organizations across the country can protect elections, promote security, and foster an inclusive and healthy democracy.
“The challenges facing US democracy in the coming election year are immense and complex. Safeguarding elections is critical but that is only part of the picture. We must also dispel unfounded fears about ‘voter fraud’ and ‘stolen elections’ and restore faith in our democratic institutions,” said Betsy Reed, editor in chief of the Guardian US. The Guardian, which has devoted extensive resources to covering attacks on US voting rights, is honored to be part of this urgent conversation, featuring leading voices from across the nation.”
A keynote address from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, one of the nation’s leaders in ensuring elections are secure and accessible, will open the program. She oversaw Michigan’s 2020 and 2022 general elections, which drew record-breaking turnout and earned her the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the Presidential Citizens Medal. She also implemented new voting rights prior to the 2020 election, and oversaw more than 250 audits after the election, all of which affirmed its integrity and accuracy.
After Benson’s remarks, Pape will discuss recent research findings from CPOST that highlight trends in support for political violence in the United States.
“For nearly three years, CPOST has been tracking anti-democratic attitudes, beliefs in political conspiracy theories, and support for political violence among Americans. Our “Dangers to Democracy” tracker offers unparalleled insight into the landscape of the American mind on the crucial issues that will determine the fate of democracy and offers unique ideas about how to avoid the most serious dangers in the future,” said Pape.
The program will then turn to a panel discussion moderated by Sam Levine, the Guardian’s voting rights reporter and a UChicago alum. Panelists include:
Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford, the battleground state’s 34th attorney general and the first Black individual to take statewide constitutional office. Before his election, Ford served as the Majority Leader of the Nevada State Senate, the Minority Leader, Assistant Majority Whip, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Education, and member of the Judiciary Committee.
Gabriel Sterling, Chief Operating Officer in the Office of the Georgia Secretary of State. He helped manage the 2020 presidential election and recount in Georgia. Sterling came under fire from Donald Trump and many of his allies after the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office certified the election for Joe Biden after numerous vote recounts and confirmation that no fraud took place.
LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter Fund and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, initiatives that are designed to boost Black voter registration and turnout while also increasing power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities. She is the 2020 Hauser Leader at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, the 2020 Leader in Practice at Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program, and a 2020-2021 American Democracy fellow at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard.
“This extraordinary event shows that, even in our highly polarized times, frontline democratic institutions can come together and offer the voices of wisdom, experience, and thoughtfulness that our country needs at this precarious moment. Please join us,” Pape added.