the right to vote
Secretary of State, Ohio (Rep.)
Secretary of State, Michigan (Dem.)
Host, NPR's "Latino USA"
Co-Founder, Black Voters Matter
Award-winning Journalist & Author
The Most Rev. Michael Curry
Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church
Author & Senior Fellow for FairVote
President, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC)
With so many threats to democracy, there is an existential imperative to simply ensure the 2020 elections are fair and accessible. Paired with this is the need to to mitigate disinformation campaigns waged primarily on ubiquitous social media platforms–this could be its own episode, however. The unalienable right to vote is the bedrock of democracy. The expansion of voting rights is a great achievement of American democracy. It is now threatened by efforts to restrict voting and by unregulated social media.
Frank LaRose, Secretary of State, Ohio (Rep.)
Frank LaRose took office as Ohio’s 51st Secretary of State on January 14th, 2019. Prior to being elected to statewide office, he served two terms in the State Senate representing the 27th Senate District in northeast Ohio.
As Ohio’s Secretary of State, LaRose is doing his part to deliver a thriving democracy and a prosperous economy. In his role as Ohio’s chief elections officer, he’s working to ensure Ohio’s elections are secure, accurate and accessible. He is also supporting Ohio entrepreneurs as the sole authority to receive and approve articles of incorporation for Ohio businesses. In the legislature, LaRose spearheaded efforts to increase government transparency and efficiency, particularly in the areas of elections administration and regulatory reform.
Among numerous recognitions, LaRose was named the Legislator of the Year in 2016 by the Ohio Association of Election Officials in recognition of his support and commitment to improving Ohio’s election process. He is currently serving a two-year term within the Aspen Institute as a Rodel Fellow – a bipartisan group of America’s rising political stars brought together to promote greater civil discourse. In May 2019, LaRose was presented the Business Champion Award by the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
LaRose developed his strong work ethic and sense of responsibility at a young age while working on a small family-owned farm in northeast Ohio. After graduating from Copley High School, LaRose fulfilled a lifelong dream by enlisting in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne, and ultimately served in the U.S. Special Forces as a Green Beret. During his decade in uniform around the globe, LaRose received numerous commendations and honors, including the Bronze Star.
LaRose continues to give back to his community since leaving the Army and entering public service. He is the Jr. Vice Commander of the Fairlawn VFW and, as an Eagle Scout himself, Frank now serves on the executive board for his local Boy Scouts of America Council. LaRose, a native of northeast Ohio, graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Consumer Affairs and Business. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Columbus with their three daughters.
Jocelyn Benson, Secretary of State, Michigan (Dem.)
Jocelyn Benson is Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State. In this role she is focused on ensuring elections are secure and accessible, and dramatically improving customer experiences for all who interact with our offices.Benson is the author of State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process, the first major book on the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. She is also the Chair of Michigan’s Task Force on Women in Sports, created by Governor Whitmer in 2019 to advance opportunities for women in Michigan as athletes and sports leaders.
A graduate of Harvard Law School and expert on civil rights law, education law and election law, Benson served as dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. When she was appointed dean at age 36, she became the youngest woman in U.S. history to lead a top-100, accredited law school. She continues to serve as vice chair of the advisory board for the Levin Center at Wayne Law, which she founded with former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Previously, Benson was an associate professor and associate director of Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.
Prior to her election, she served as CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit organization using the unifying power of sports to improve race relations. Benson is co-founder and former president of Military Spouses of Michigan, a network dedicated to providing support and services to military spouses and their children. In 2015, she became one of the youngest women in history to be inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
Maria Hinojosa, Host, NPR's "Latino USA"
For 25 years, Maria Hinojosa has helped tell America’s untold stories and brought to light unsung heroes in America and abroad. In April 2010, Hinojosa launched The Futuro Media Group with the mission to produce multi-platform, community-based journalism that gives critical voice to the voiceless by harnessing the power of independent media to tell stories that are overlooked or under reported by traditional media.
As the anchor and executive producer of the long-running weekly NPR show Latino USA, and as anchor of the Emmy Award-winning talk show Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One from WGBH/La Plaza, Hinojosa has informed millions of Americans about the fastest growing group in our country. Previously, a Senior Correspondent for NOW on PBS, and currently, a rotating anchor for Need to Know, Hinojosa has reported hundreds of important stories—from the immigrant work camps in NOLA after Katrina, to teen girl victims of sexual harassment on the job, to Emmy Award-winning stories of the poor in Alabama.
Hinojosa has won top honors in American journalism. Latino USA won a Peabody Award in April 2015 for its 2014 episode “Gangs, Murder and Migration in Honduras.” Her awards also include four Emmys, the 2012 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged, the Studs Terkel Community Media Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club for best documentary for her groundbreaking “Child Brides: Stolen Lives.” In 2009, Hinojosa was honored with an AWRT Gracie Award for Individual Achievement as Best TV correspondent. In 2010 she was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, by DePaul University in Chicago, as well as the Sidney Hillman Prize honoring her social and economic justice reporting. In 2012 she additionally received an honorary degree from Simmons College, was named among the top 25 Latinos in Contemporary American Culture by the Huffington Post, and gave the prestigious Ware Lecture. In 2013, Hinojosa taught at DePaul University as the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz chair of the Latin American and Latino Studies program.
Throughout her career, Hinojosa has helped define the conversation about our times and our society with one of the most authentic voices in broadcast. Hinojosa is the author of two books including a motherhood memoir, Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son. She was born in Mexico City, raised in Chicago, and received her BA from Barnard College.
LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder, Black Voters Matter
LaTosha Brown is an award-winning organizer, philanthropic consultant, political strategist and jazz singer with over twenty years of experience working in the non-profit and philanthropy sectors on a wide variety of issues related to political empowerment, social justice, economic development, leadership development, wealth creation and civil rights.
She is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, a power building southern based civic engagement organization that played an instrumental role in the 2017 Alabama U.S. Senate race. Ms. Brown is principal owner of TruthSpeaks Consulting, Inc., a philanthropy advisory consulting firm in Atlanta, GA. For more than 25 years, she has served as a consultant and advisor for individual donors, government, public foundations and private donors.
Throughout her career, Ms. Brown has distinguished herself as a trusted expert and resource in political strategy, rural development and special programming for a number of national and regional philanthropies. She is the founding project director of Grantmakers for Southern Progress.
Andrew Gumbel, Award-winning Journalist & Author
Andrew Gumbel is an award-winning journalist and author with a long track record as an investigative reporter, political columnist, magazine writer and foreign correspondent. He contributes regularly to The Guardian from Los Angeles, where he lives, and has written extensively on subjects ranging from politics, law enforcement and counterterrorism, to popular culture and food. His book Oklahoma City: What The Investigation Missed — And Why It Still Matters (HarperCollins) was published to wide acclaim in 2012. A thoroughly revised version of his history of electoral corruption in the United States, Down for the Count: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America, was published by The New Press in 2016.
In early 2020, he was involved in two new books, one, which he wrote, the remarkable story of a public university in Atlanta that has transformed the prospects of its lower-income students, Won’t Lose This Dream: How an Upstart Urban University Rewrote the Rules of a Broken System (The New Press, May 2020) and the other, on which he was a co-editor and contributor, about the prospects for American democracy in the age of Donald Trump, Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People (also from The New Press, out March 2020).
Born in Britain, Andrew spent six years with the international news agency Reuters, then worked for The Guardian and its rival British daily, The Independent. He was in Berlin when the Wall came down, in Kuwait in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, in Bosnia and Serbia during the wars of the 1990s, and in Italy to watch the political rise of Silvio Berlusconi.
Since 1998 he has been based in the United States, breaking stories on subjects as diverse as the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, the manipulation of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war, the cultural battles over gay marriage, mismanagement at Hollywood’s dedicated retirement facility for former television and film workers, and the growing security threat posed by mass shootings. Aside from The Guardian, his pieces have appeared in The Atlantic, the Daily Beast, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeleno, Vanity Fair, The Advocate and the Hollywood news website TheWrap.
Andrew won a Project Censored award in 2003 for his work on the shortcomings of America’s new-generation computer voting machines. Five years later, he was named best political columnist of 2008 by the Association of Alternative Newspapers for his long-running column American Babylon, which appeared in the now-defunct LA CityBeat.
In addition to his work as a writer, Andrew has also developed a strong reputation as a journalism teacher. He received a first class honors degree in modern languages (French and Italian) from Oxford University.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church
The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry is Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church. He is the Chief Pastor and serves as President and Chief Executive Officer, and as Chair of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. Presiding Bishop Curry was installed as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church on November 1, 2015. He was elected to a nine-year term and confirmed at the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, UT, on June 27, 2015.
The descendant of enslaved Africans brought to North America by way of the trans-Atlantic slave routes, Presiding Bishop Curry was born in Chicago, IL, on March 13, 1953. Presiding Bishop Curry’s father was an Episcopal priest and his mother was a devout Episcopalian. She died at a young age, and Presiding Bishop Curry, along with his sister, was raised by his father and his grandmother. His father, mother and grandmother grounded him in Christian beliefs and practices through their example and their teachings.
He attended public schools in Buffalo, NY, and, even at a young age, he learned about social activism through his father’s leadership and his own dedication to righting a broken world.
Presiding Bishop Curry was graduated with high honors from Hobart College in Geneva, NY, in 1975. He received a Master of Divinity degree in 1978 from Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, CT. He has furthered his education with continued study at The College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary, and the Institute of Christian Jewish Studies. He has received honorary degrees from Episcopal Divinity School; Sewanee: The University of the South; Virginia Theological Seminary; and Yale.
He is married to the former Sharon Clement, and they have two adult daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth.
David Daley, Author & Senior Fellow for FairVote
David Daley is a senior fellow for FairVote and the author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, which helped spark the recent drive to reform gerrymandering. Dave’s second book, Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy, chronicles the victories and defeats in state efforts to reform elections and uphold voting rights. A frequent lecturer and media source about gerrymandering, he is the former editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and the former CEO and publisher of the Connecticut News Project. He is a digital media fellow at the Wilson Center for the Humanities and the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Guardian, New York magazine, the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, Details, and he’s been on CNN and NPR. When writing for the Hartford Courant, he helped identify Mark Felt as the “Deep Throat” source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Desmond Meade, President, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC)
Desmond Meade is a formerly homeless returning citizen who overcame many obstacles to eventually become the President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, and a graduate of Florida International University College of Law.
As President and Executive Director of FRRC, which is recognized for its work on voting and criminal justice reform issues, Desmond led the FRRC to a historic victory in 2018 with the successful passage of Amendment 4, a grassroots citizen’s initiative which restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. Amendment 4 represented the single largest expansion of voting rights in the United States in half a century and brought an end to 150 years of a Jim Crow-era law in Florida.
Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2019, Desmond presently leads efforts to empower and civically re-engage local communities across the state, and to reshape local, state, and national criminal justice policies. His work has resulted in being named Floridian and Central Floridian of the Year 2019.
A sought-after speaker, Desmond has made numerous appearances on radio and television, and has spoken before national organizations such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bread for the World. Desmond has testified before Congressional members and staffers and was a part of a delegation to the United Nations where he gave testimony regarding disenfranchisement in Florida. Desmond orchestrated a historic meeting at the White House between returning citizens and the President Obama’s administration. He has appeared on numerous shows such as Al-Jazeera, Democracy NOW, MSNBC with Joy Ann Reid, FOX News with Dana Perino and Tucker Carlson, Samantha Bee, and All In with Chris Hayes. He is a guest columnist for the Huffington Post in which one of his articles about the death of Trayvon Martin garnered national attention. Desmond has been featured in several newspaper and magazine articles and was chosen as a “Game Changer” by Politic 365, as well as being recognized as a “Foot Soldier” on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC.
Desmond is married and has five beautiful children.
Jacqueline Salit, President, IndependentVoting.org
A highly respected political innovator and advocate for the rights of independent voters—now 40% of the American electorate—Jacqueline Salit has built the largest network of independent leaders and activists in the country. She is the President of IndependentVoting.org, the country’s leading strategy and organizing center for independents, with chapters in 40 states. Since 2005 she has hosted a bi-annual national conference for independents.
Salit managed Michael Bloomberg’s three campaigns for New York City Mayor on the Independence Party (IP) line, playing a crucial role in delivering the IP’s “margin of victory” vote in 2001, the exodus of 47% of African-American voters from the Democratic Party to support Bloomberg in 2005, and the historic 150,000 votes for Bloomberg’s re-election on the IP line in 2009.
In 2011, Palgrave Macmillan selected Salit to write a book on the contemporary independent political movement in America. Independents Rising: Outsider Movements, Third Parties and the Struggle for a Post-Partisan America was released on August 7, 2012 and presents her firsthand account of this growing and influential voting bloc.
Salit recounts independents little-known history and sometimes volatile impact as old political institutions and categories are becoming irrelevant—even repugnant—to many Americans. Salit, who has spent 30 years as an insider in this growing movement of outsiders, also reveals how independents underestimate their own power and how they can make the most of their newfound influence in American politics.
Salit’s political commentaries have appeared in: USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Legal Times, Buffalo News, Union Leader, Albany Times Union, and New York Newsday. She’s been featured commentator on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, CBC, PBS, FOX and CSPAN.
Salit is a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated radio program Fairness Radio and produced Talk/Talk with the late public philosopher Fred Newman. She is a native New Yorker who resides in Greenwich Village.