Announcing the New Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at UCI Law

I’m delighted to share the news, scooped by Politico, that my UCI Law colleague David Kaye and I have started the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at the law school. Why such a Center?

As I state in our opening press release, American democracy is under increasing strain, and the 2020 election exacerbated threats to the rule of law and to public confidence in fair elections. Much of that is thanks to the rise of social media. The new Center will look at what’s wrong, and what can be done, to strengthen democratic institutions in the U.S. and around the world.

And as David Kaye says, ““We are launching the Center at a moment when democratic participation is under attack not only in the United States but worldwide. In addition to a domestic focus rooted in the fundamentals of American law, we will bring a global perspective, using human rights norms to research and advocate for freedom of expression and public participation as central pillars of democratic societies.”

As we explain at the Center’s website:

Established in 2021 after the contentious 2020 U.S. Presidential elections, which culminated in the dangerous January 6, 2021 insurrection in the United States Capitol, the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at UCI Law is unique in its focus among U.S. and global institutions. It is dedicated solely to advancing an understanding of, and offering means to counter, threats to the stability and legitimacy of democratic governments exacerbated by the unregulated growth of digital media and other technological changes in mass communication. The Center will facilitate deep scholarship on American law, politics, and democracy as well as on global norms and institutions.

We have assembled a world-class advisory board to help guide our mission, which is to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the digital age both in the U.S. and around the world. I’m blown away by the folks who signed on to advise us.

And we are going to hit the ground running, with a series of free, virtual events, open to all in the fall. Among the most important events is a conference on Election Subversion, on Friday Sept. 24. Speakers include Georgia SOS Brad Raffensperger. Here’s the tentative agenda:

The Fair Elections and Free Speech Center will also have a three-part lunch series on challenges in global elections, beginning w a Sept. 1 event looking at disinformation in elections in Uganda, Israel, and the Netherlands.

will also have a three-part lunch series on disinformation in American elections. One panel features Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Orange County Registrar Neal Kelly. Others will feature social scientists and law profs.

I’m also excited to moderate a Fair Elections and Free Speech Center conversation on Sept. 9, Is the U.S. Constitution Up to the Task of Preserving American Democracy?, with Jack Balkin, Michele Goodwin, and Michael Klarman.

We have much bigger plans for the Center going forward, as we begin our building and fundraising efforts. David Kaye and I cannot thank former UCI Law Dean Song Richardson enough for her early leadership on this project, and the tremendous law school staff.

You can watch this video, in which David Kaye and I explain why we started the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center, and what we hope to do:

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