Beyond the BubbleNational

Lessons from the Front Lines of Election Policy

June 5, 2024

Left to right: Representative Kristine Reeves (D-WA), Mary-Katherine Stone (D-VT), and Paige Ferguson Future Caucus’ Policy Innovation Lab Director

By Paige Ferguson, Innovation Lab Director

I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan… to attend the Election Science, Reform, and Administration Conference at the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

The USC Schwarzenegger Institute gathered some of the foremost experts in elections nationwide. Pro-democracy organizations, academics, and election administrators from across the country were all represented.   

Joined by two of Future Caucus’ inaugural Strengthening Democracy Innovation Fellows, Rep. Mary-Katherine Stone (D-V) and Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-WA), we delved into election law and oversight and what sparked their passion for voting policy. The session, titled “Legislative Oversight of Election Administration: Bipartisan Lessons from Young Legislators on the Frontlines of Election Policy,” drew a packed house of the nation’s foremost experts on voting and election law.

Rep. Stone and Rep. Reeves shared insights from their legislative experiences like a failed bill to protect election officials, emphasizing the importance of bipartisan cooperation in overseeing election administration. They discussed the challenges and successes they encountered while working to ensure fair and secure elections in their respective states. Most importantly, the lawmakers highlighted the need to collaborate with election administrators and poll workers to ensure effective policies that address real-world challenges like harassment at polling locations and election-related violence faced by those on the frontlines of our democracy. Their narratives underscored young legislators’ critical role in shaping election policy and fostering trust in the electoral process.

At the Los Angeles County Ballot Processing Facility, we witnessed firsthand the intricate and meticulous process of ensuring election results’ integrity and accuracy. After viewing a video on the development of the latest model of voting machines, we got to use them ourselves. In Los Angeles County, after entering your selections on a screen, you print a paper ballot and return it to the same machine for your vote to be tallied. Seeing the process up close and getting to “vote” ourselves was a unique opportunity to see policy in action. 

One key takeaway from the conference was the emphasis on innovation and evidence-based policymaking. Experts shared cutting-edge research and practical solutions to contemporary challenges in election administration. We also heard directly from election administrators about opportunities like developing strategies to increase retention in the field and challenges like the threat of violence they face in their roles across the country.

Attending the Election Science, Reform, and Administration Conference at USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute gave me a new understanding of election administration’s complexities and critical importance. The emphasis on bipartisan cooperation, innovation, and evidence-based policymaking showcased young lawmakers’ understanding that addressing challenges to our election systems will take a collaborative spirit–a challenge itself in today’s political environment, but one they are determined to take on together. This conference enriched our knowledge on topics from building trust in democracy to using data effectively in crafting election law and reinforced our commitment to ensuring fair, transparent, and secure elections for all.

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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