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Lawmakers Urged to Launch Universal Vote-by-Mail in Response to Health Crisis

Voting officials should begin planning now to implement a national vote-by-mail program for the remaining primaries and the presidential general election in November, according to a new white paper from the UCLA Voting Rights Project, which is an advocacy project of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. The paper [download here] represents an early call to action amid concern that the novel coronavirus will negatively impact election turnout. Congress is encouraged to provide funding and guidance for mail balloting as part of measures seeking to mitigate the economic and societal impacts of the current health crisis. “States around the country are pushing back primary and runoff elections in the hope that election procedures can return to normal at a later time,” said Chad Dunn, co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and co-author of the report. “But hope is not a plan. We must prepare now to protect the fundamental right to vote.” The white paper highlights a number of recommendations, including a universal online registration system, creation of a standardized mail ballot, and security measures to ensure ballot validity. Such measures would encourage widespread voter participation. “The 2020 election could have record turnout for young voters and communities of color, groups that must be engaged in deciding the future of our country and on issues that affect our local communities,” said Matt Barreto, UCLA Voting Rights co-founder and co-author of the paper. “Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and vote-by-mail offers a solution to challenges that range from busy work schedules to global pandemics.”—Eliza Moreno


Peterson Evaluates Health of Decade-Old ACA

The state of the 10-year-old Affordable Care Act is the subject of a new article by Public Policy Professor Mark A. Peterson in a special two-issue publication of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. The advance publication of Peterson’s study, “The ACA a Decade In: Resilience, Impact, and Vulnerabilities,” is included in the first issue of the Duke University Press journal. Peterson, former editor of the journal, writes that in the decade since its enactment, the political health of the ACA — popularly known as Obamacare — has looked precarious. “It decidedly lacked the popular acclaim of the sort that arose to undergird programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Peterson says, but he adds that it has remained “viable and consequential despite Republican efforts to end it.” He also points out that, while the impact on insurance coverage has been substantial, it remains distant from universal coverage. “The ACA has revealed perhaps surprising resilience, put insurance cards into the hands of millions previously outside the system, and even contributed to some degree of reduced financial burdens,” Peterson argues. “At the same time, all of these gains have been incomplete, remain vulnerable and are threatened by underlying forces in the political economy.” Assessing the strengths and vulnerabilities of the act in its first 10 years, Peterson cautions that a path to a more secure future for either the ACA — or a more ambitious successor — is far from clear.


Lens Awarded Grant to Research Black Neighborhoods

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, was awarded a Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) Pipeline Grant to support his research on the evolution of black neighborhoods and the spatial and economic mobility of the black community. The grant recognizes “outstanding work on black urbanism by an amazing scholar,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said. In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, RSF awarded 18 grants to early- and mid-career tenure-track scholars from underrepresented backgrounds in the social sciences to promote diversity. With his award, Lens will further explore under what conditions black neighborhoods flourish or fail. Lens will summarize the trajectories of black neighborhoods in the U.S. since the 1970s to address current policy debates surrounding housing, segregation, neighborhood effects and race. The RSF grants were awarded to scholars conducting innovative research on economic mobility and access to opportunity. Research projects by Lens and the 17 other scholars who received Pipeline Grants explore gentrification, segregation, housing policy, education and social capital, among many other topics.


Sudanese Refugees United by Soccer

“It’s more than just a game.” Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin hosted the staff of iACT, a Los Angeles-based NGO, and players from the soccer team the organization co-created with Sudanese refugees, Darfur United. Souleyman Jassir, the cultural ambassador and goalkeeper for the team, told his story at the March 5 event. It’s one of struggle, perseverance and hope, as Souleyman was forced to flee Darfur as a young child out of fear of genocide and settled in a refugee camp in eastern Chad. “When I was a boy, all I did was run. Run away. It’s probably why I was good at soccer,” he only half-joked. Souleyman talked about losing family members and being separated from his mother for weeks, thinking he wouldn’t see her again. He was happily mistaken. Souleyman now lives in Concordia, Kansas, with his family after being relocated there through the U.S. State Department Refugee Resettlement Program and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Despite this new life and all of the challenges and opportunities brought with it, Souleyman thinks that Darfur United has never been more important. “There are people all over, from the USA to Sweden. When we can all come together to play, it represents hope and a better future for Sudan,” he explained. Darfur United is currently hosting a training camp in Los Angeles in preparation for the CONIFA World Football Cup 2020 in North Macedonia, where stateless teams from around the world will compete. — John Danly

View photos from the event, courtesy of iACT.

Super Tuesday, Luskin-Style

As Super Tuesday drew to a close after 72 hours of campaign twists and turns, Public Policy students and faculty flocked to a watch party at the Luskin School for pizza and political talk. The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination as a two-man race came into focus as returns came in from across the country. In addition to weighing the merits of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, students talked about state and local races and the new voting centers rolled out by Los Angeles County for the March 3 primary. Many in the room wore “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots at Ackerman Union. The crowd also included half a dozen international students who were fascinated by the political process unfolding before them. Professors Martin Gilens and Mark Peterson provided context and commentary as hosts of the event. They were joined by Associate Professor Wesley Yin and Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic nominee. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, shared their own unique perspectives with students at the watch party.

View more photos on Flickr.


Super Tuesday Watch Party

UCLA Luskin Day at L.A. City Hall Focuses on Housing

Alternative and affordable housing served as the topic of the 16th annual UCLA Luskin Day on Feb. 21 at Los Angeles City Hall. VC Powe, organizer and executive director of external programs and career services, said 15 students made the trip downtown to discuss this year’s pressing urban social policy issue with city and county leaders. During the day, co-sponsored by UCLA Government and Community Relations, graduate students from all three master’s programs met with Paul Koretz of Council District 5 and heard from Alisa Orduña, senior advisor on homelessness to Santa Monica’s city manager. The students also met with Luskin alumni and broke into teams to interview representatives of local leadership, business and nonprofit organizations that address affordable housing issues in Los Angeles. “The housing issue is definitely something that I came to the program to really try to work and understand a bit more,” said Gerrlyn Gacao, a first-year student studying urban planning. “For me, this experience is about learning first-hand from leaders that are working in the field and throughout the city.” As a first-year social welfare student, Ashley Farnan focuses on seniors. “I’m waking up to the reality of the rising rates of homelessness among seniors and the total lack of affordable housing. … I recognize that I need to be part of the policy conversation.” Associate Professor Paavo Monkkonen served as faculty advisor for the day and will work with students to provide a written memorandum on ways to fund homeless or permanent supportive housing based on the stakeholder interviews.

View more photos from the day on Flickr:

UCLA Luskin Day at LA City Hall 2020

Vox Podcast Host Presents ‘Flip the Script’

Sean Rameswaram, host of Vox’s Today, Explained podcast and a UCLA alumnus, shared tales of his academic and professional journey at a Feb. 19 “Flip the Script” gathering hosted by the UCLA Luskin undergraduate program. Rameswaram discussed the power of media to effect social change and invited students to the stage to share their own experiences. Before he joined Vox, Rameswaram’s career path took him to the radio organizations CBC, NPR, PRI and WNYC, and these experiences taught him how to actualize change through media, he said. As a teenager, he felt distressed by wars launched during the George W. Bush administration and the constant bombing of brown people, he said. But he found comfort in public radio. “Here are people investigating the reasons behind this conflict. Here are people trying to have a respectful conversation with everyone involved. Here are people not trying to condition my thoughts about it, but educate me,” he said. “Public radio became a second home to me.” Now, as the host of Today, Explained, he aims to make sense of the news, especially to younger demographics. In every episode, Rameswaram and his team aim to cover an issue that impacts people’s lives, and “the subtext of every episode is vote,” he said. With this call to action, he said he hopes more people will feel inspired to enact change in their communities. — Myrka Vega

See more photos from the event on Flickr.


Anheier Leads New UC Online Journal as Editor-in-Chief

Global Perspectives, a new UC Press publication, is now live online with the first of a series of articles designed to advance contemporary social science research and debates across disciplines. Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, serves as editor-in-chief of the online-only endeavor. “We start from the premise that the world that gave rise to the social sciences in their present form is no more,” Anheier said in a Q&A on the UC-based blog. Anheier, who also holds posts at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and the Max Weber Institute at Heidelberg University, Germany, explained that the overall vision was to “assemble a group of leading scholars that together can create a significant momentum to overcome the inertia that is inherent in the rigid disciplinary and national silos.” Global Perspectives is “open to the whole thematic range of the social sciences, and in particular those phenomena that are no longer located neatly within established geographical or national boundaries, if they ever were,” Anheier wrote in the publication’s inaugural essay. The first article available is “Recoupling Economic and Social Progress” by Katharina Lima de Miranda and Dennis J. Snower. Other titles will focus on issues including trade, markets, security, the environment, media, justice, law, governance, culture, identities, technology, shifting geographies and migration. “The concepts and empirical bases needed for a profound understanding of financial flows, climate change, intellectual property rights, technological advances or migration flows are just some examples that illustrate the complexity of the research task ahead,” Anheier said.