The nation is at a turning point, and voting rights are in peril.
Voting rights are widely recognized as the cornerstone of democracy, yet needed reforms have been blocked, unfounded allegations have undermined the integrity of election systems, and bills in numerous state legislatures will make it harder to vote. Underlying all of these developments are concerted efforts to constrain voting.
This event, the first of several in the Empowering Voting and Democracy virtual education series, featured insights from voting-rights experts on the history of voting, current threats to voting rights, and strategies for protecting access to the ballot.
March 30, 2022
12:00–1:30 PM (CST)
Why I Fight
Transformative Justice Coalition
Arnwine discussed voting rights bills and why she fights to protect the freedom to vote.
Voting in the States
Brennan Center for Justice
Hira discussed threats to the freedom to vote and efforts in the states to protect it.
Voting in Missouri
Missouri Voter Protection Coalition
Lieberman discussed developments in voting laws and processes within the Show Me State.
Moderators: Gena Gunn McClendon, Center for Social Development, moderated the discussion; the Q & A was moderated by Jennifer Slavik Lohman, St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition, and Vicki C. Washington, St. Louis Area Voting Initiative.
Barbara R. Arnwine, Esq., President and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, is internationally renowned for contributions on critical justice issues, including the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the 2006 reauthorization of provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Currently, she also serves as Co-Chair and Facilitator of the National Commission for Voter Justice, the Millennial Votes Matters Convenings and the Voting Rights Alliance. She was the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from February 1989 until June 2015 and holds the honorific title of President Emeritus. She has served as the Charles Hamilton Chair for the North Carolina Central University School of Law from 2016–2017 and has also taught at Columbia University School of Law. She also created the legendary Voting Rights “Map of Shame” in 2011, which exposed the new modern wave of voter suppression in the states. Her groundbreaking civil rights and human rights advocacy has been honored with many prestigious awards. She is the radio host of Igniting Change and is a regular presence in the national media, and is often quoted in the press. A graduate of Scripps College and Duke University School of Law, she continues to champion civil rights and racial justice issues nationally and internationally in the areas of housing and lending, women’s rights, especially issues affecting intersectionality and African American women and girls, community development, employment, voting, education, policing restructuring, and environmental justice. On May 2nd, 2021, Duke University conferred the Honorary Doctorate Of Law upon Barbara Arnwine, Esq.
Elizabeth Hira is Spitzer Fellow and Senior Counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, focusing on large-scale democracy reform that centers equity. Elizabeth worked most recently as a lawyer in the U.S. Congress—first for Senator Kamala Harris developing federal policy on gender equity and civil rights, and later serving on the Committee on House Administration to develop the first version of H.R. 1 for the 116th Congress. Elizabeth has worked globally and domestically on equity for women, children, and underserved communities. She holds a BA from Stanford University and earned her JD at Georgetown Law.
Denise Lieberman, Esq., is Director and General Counsel of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, a nonpartisan statewide network of advocates who work to protect the right to vote in Missouri. A nationally renowned expert on voting rights, Lieberman also teaches law and political science at Washington University in St. Louis, has testified before Congress in support of the Voting Rights Act, and has litigated challenges to voting laws in Missouri, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina among others. She previously served as national Director of Power & Democracy at Advancement Project National Office, a racial justice organization, and as a consultant with the Brennan Center. She is Faculty Director of Voter Access and Engagement in the Center for Social Development.
Gena Gunn McClendon, PhD, is Director of the Voter Access and Engagement initiative and Co-Director of the Financial Capability and Asset Building initiative at the Center for Social Development. Her work primarily involves policy research analysis and consultation with community-based programs, academic institutions, state and federal policymakers, and advocacy groups. Dr. McClendon’s program development and policy work focuses on issues related to voter suppression and civic participation of low- and moderate-income households and marginalized populations. Through her research, she works to identify and advance practice and policy strategies that support an inclusive democracy and the professional training of social work students. She co-leads the Financial Capability and Asset Building initiative, which focuses on the development and research of a postsecondary curriculum in financial social work.
Jennifer Slavik Lohman is the director of the St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition and is the regional coordinator for the St. Louis Metro Area’s Election Protection field program. She chairs the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition’s Anti-Disinformation Committee and is a member of the national Election Protection Anti-Disinformation Working Group. She has also assisted other organizations in developing new voter registration, education, and outreach efforts. Jennifer graduated from Notre Dame Law School and worked as a litigator and federal judicial clerk before turning to nonprofit and political activities.
Vicki C. Washington After spending most of her career in the fields of equity, diversity, inclusion, and civil rights in health care, local government, and in higher education administration, Vicki C. Washington, JD, retired from the position of Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin System in August 2016, a position she’d held from 2005. While at UW System, Vicki’s portfolio included systemwide programs relating to inclusive excellence, equity, diversity & inclusion, LGBTQ, multicultural/disadvantage student success and precollege programs, and the administration of several systemwide award programs. After retiring and relocating to St. Louis at the end of January 2017, Vicki focused her efforts on voter registration, engagement, and participation. She helped convene a small group of people interested in impacting voter participation and engagement among the black community in the St. Louis metro area that eventually became the St. Louis Area Voting Initiative (SLAVI). Its primary focus is voter education designed to increase voter registration and engagement in the black communities across the St. Louis metro area. SLAVI’s members include voting rights advocates, post-secondary educators, and community organizers affiliated with a variety of organizations, including the NAACP – St. Louis County Chapter, the Metropolitan Congregations United and closely collaborates with the Voter Access and Engagement initiative at Washington University and the St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition. Vicki is a member of the board for the Mildred Thimes Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer, the St. Louis Chapter of Girl Friends, Inc., the St. Louis Chapter of Smart Set, and the St. Louis County Chapter of the NAACP. She is a graduate of Spelman College, North Carolina Central’s School of Law, and completed the Harvard Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. Vicki has an adult son.
Voting Rights: What’s It All About? was sponsored by the Center for Social Development; the Transformative Justice Coalition; the Brennan Center for Justice; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Gamma Omega Chapter; the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition; In Every Generation; the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis; the Grand Challenges for Social Work; the St. Louis Area Voting Initiative; and the St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition.
Founded by Barbara Arnwine, president emeritus of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, the Transformative Justice Coalition seeks to be a catalyst for transformative institutional changes that bring about justice and equality in the United States and abroad.
As an independent, nonpartisan law and policy organization, the Brennan Center conducts rigorous research to identify problems and provide in-depth empirical findings and compelling analyses of pressing legal and policy issues. We also pioneer and champion policy solutions, such as automatic voter registration and small-donor public financing.
For 100 years, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Gamma Omega Chapter, has transcended time in the Metropolitan St. Louis community by enriching lives through scholarship, community betterment, and sisterhood. The original Chapter goals were to: (1) Vitalize the ideals of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., (2) foster civic and educational movements, and (3) encourage young women to attain a college education. The Chapter has maintained these timeless goals with adaptability, resourcefulness, and updated objectives to improve and expand programs to enhance and augment the community through “Service to All Mankind.”
The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition (MOVPC) is a nonpartisan statewide network of advocates who work to protect the right to vote in Missouri.
In Every Generation (IEG) provides the training materials and strategies to enable nonprofits and churches to implement effective voter registration and engagement programs right away. In partnership with these community organizations, IEG also tailors programs to meet the specific needs of a given community and help engage those voters on the importance of voting the whole ballot in every election. Engagement can also expand to offering information about serving on boards and commissions and opportunities to run for elected office. This engagement will provide the cornerstone for general power-building in currently under-served communities.
The League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis is an affiliate of the national League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The Metro St. Louis League is a 501(c)3 organization with two separate and distinct roles:
Voters Service/Citizen Education: We present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues.
Action/Advocacy: We are also nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.
The Grand Challenges for Social Work, the flagship program of the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW), is a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science. It’s a call to action for social work researchers and practitioners to harness social work’s science and knowledge base; collaborate with individuals, community-based organizations, and professionals from all fields and disciplines; and work together to tackle some of our most challenging social problems.
The St. Louis Area Voting Initiative (SLAVI) envisions Black communities in the St. Louis area that are informed, energized, empowered, motivated, and committed to sustained civic engagement.
The St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition (SLVPC) maximizes access to the ballot because a strong democracy depends on a guarantee that all Americans deserve and have the right to vote. Every vote has the power to change the world.
Empowering Voting and Democracy
A virtual education series
Empowering Voting and Democracy features insights from leading experts on voting rights and the democratic process. Events in the series will elevate the work of those fighting for democracy and engage the public in the work of expanding equitable access to democratic institutions in the United States.
The series is organized by the Center for Social Development, in collaboration with partners across the United States.
Events in This Series
March 9 & 10, 2022
Social Work Day on the Hill
On March 9, the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work & Policy hosted the 2022 Social Work Day on the Hill events, including the launch of the Social Work Democracy Project. Convened annually, Social Work Day on the Hill and Student Advocacy Day offer opportunities to engage policy makers in the nation’s capital. Social Work Day on the Hill was held on March 9, and Student Advocacy Day was held on March 10.
The Center for Social Development cosponsored the 2022 Social Work Day on the Hill events, which were organized by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. Additional cosponsors included the Council on Social Work Education; the Association of Social Work Boards; the Columbia University School of Social Work; the Boston University School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health; the University of Washington School of Social Work; the Clark-Fox Policy Institute in the Brown School at Washington University; the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Social Work; the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice; and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
March 30, 2022
Voting Rights: What’s It All About?
Barbara Arnwine, Transformative Justice Coalition
Elizabeth Hira, Brennan Center for Justice
Denise Lieberman, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition
Moderator: Gena Gunn McClendon, Center for Social Development
April 13, 2022
Tanya Rhodes Smith, Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, University of Connecticut; Voting Is Social Work
September 7, 2022
Voting, Misinformation, Disinformation, and Manipulation
Shireen Mitchell, Stop Online Violence Against Women
Jennifer Lohman, St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition
September 13, 2022
The Center for Social Development is cosponsoring this event, which is part of the series The Power of Macro Social Work: Forging Pathways, to be hosted by the Open Classroom at the Brown School at Washington University, in collaboration with Influencing Social Policy.
Mimi Abramovitz, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College
Cheryl Aguilar, Hope Center for Wellness
Gena Gunn McClendon, Center for Social Development
Shannon Lane, Yeshiva University
Gary Parker, Clark-Fox Policy Institute
Jenna Powers, University of Connecticut School of Social Work
Adelaide Sandler, Marist College
Moderator: Jason Ostrander, Sacred Heart University
September 28, 2022
Voting in Missouri, Civic Education, and Engagement: Local Voting, Community Action, and Impact
Louis Damani Jones, Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement
Gena McClendon, Center for Social Development
Eric Frey, St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners
D. Benjamin Borgmeyer, St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners