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Luskin Summit Underscores Urgency of Safeguarding Democracy

A panel of experts stressed the urgency of protecting voter rights at the Luskin Summit virtual event “Safeguarding Our Democracy” on Feb. 15. Chad Dunn, legal director of the UCLA Voting Rights Project, led the discussion about legislative attempts to restrict voting rights across the country, particularly in communities of color. “People of color made their voices heard in record numbers in the 2020 election, and in response to that, we are seeing a swift backlash to ensure that those voices are not heard again,” said Kristen Johnson, assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “It’s 2022, but we are dealing with 1964 issues with respect to voting. We can’t allow voter suppression to happen as if it is inevitable,” said Johnson, a UCLA Law alumna. Ernest Herrera, counsel for the Western Regional Office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that voter suppression tactics are especially evident in states with growing Latino populations, including Washington and Texas. “There is discrimination and prevention of minorities from exercising their political power,” he said. “Unfortunately, many jurisdictions won’t comply with the Voting Rights Act until they are forced to.” Herrera recommended working to protect voter rights at the state level and getting involved in local government. Dunn concluded that “this has always been a two-steps-forward, one-step-back struggle, and there will be opportunities to move forward.” Civic leader Kafi Blumenfield, a member of the Luskin School of Public Affairs Board of Advisors, offered a closing statement for the event. — Zoe Day


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