Fair Elections During a Crisis: Bipartisan and Diverse Blue-Ribbon Group of Scholars and Thinkers Releases Report on Urgent Changes Needed for November U.S. Elections


Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy Issues Recommendations in Law, Tech, Politics, and Media to Advance Election Legitimacy and Voter Confidence

IRVINE, Calif. (April 28, 2020) — Today, a bipartisan and diverse group of leading scholars and thinkers in the areas of law, technology, politics, and media released a new report, Fair Elections During a Crisis:  Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech to Advance the Legitimacy of, and the Public’s Confidence in, the November 2020 U.S. Elections. Each of the 14 recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy contains a specific action that should be taken now—by members of the media, civic leaders, social media platforms, government officials, and others—to minimize the chances of an election meltdown in November.

Even before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States, close observers of American democracy worried about the public’s faith and confidence in the results of the upcoming November 2020 U.S. elections. Although a decade ago concerns about peaceful transitions of power were less common, Americans can no longer take for granted that election losers will concede a closely-fought election after election authorities (or courts) have declared a winner. Hyperpolarization, misinformation on social media, election administration errors, foreign interference, and increasingly incendiary rhetoric around the fairness of American elections have caused public confidence in the fairness and accuracy of American elections to plummet. The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the United States hard beginning in March 2020, has only exacerbated these concerns.

Recognizing the need for multifaceted solutions to the issue of the legitimacy and acceptance of fair election results in the United States, Richard L. Hasen, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), convened an ad hoc committee made up of a diverse group of leading scholars and thinkers to tackle this issue from an interdisciplinary perspective.

“The American election system is under tremendous stress, and if nothing is done we face a potential political crisis on top of the health and economic crises brought on by COVID-19,” Hasen said. “I am confident that the Report’s specific, actionable recommendations—carefully crafted by scholars and leaders from across disciplines and the political spectrum—can advance both the actual fairness of the 2020 U.S. elections and the public’s confidence in them.”

A key Committee recommendation is that the media educate the public about how election counts may take longer than past years and vote margins may change during the count as election officials process large numbers of mail ballots, especially in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. The Committee also offers a number of recommendations to ensure both election integrity and voter access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report is available at: https://law.uci.edu/2020ElectionReport.

About the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy

The members of the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Integrity are: Andrew W. Appel, Eugene Higgins Professor of Computer Science, Princeton University; Julia Azari, Associate Professor of Political Science, Marquette University; Bruce E. Cain, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University; Jack C. Doppelt, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Professor of Journalism, Northwestern University; Tiana Epps-Johnson, Executive Director, Center for Tech and Civic Life; Edward B. Foley, Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law and Director, Election Law, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law; John C. Fortier, Director of Governmental Studies, Bipartisan Policy Center; Richard L. Hasen (Committee Chair), Chancellor's Professor of Law and Political Science, UCI Law; Liz Howard Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law; David Kaye, Clinical Professor of Law, UCI Law and UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Jack Lerner, Clinical Professor of Law & Director, UCI Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic, UC Irvine School of Law; Michael T. Morley, Assistant Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law; Janai S. Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; Brendan Nyhan, Professor of Government, Dartmouth College; Cailin O’Connor, Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, UC Irvine; Norman Ornstein; Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Nate Persily, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law, Stanford University; Richard H. Pildes, Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University School of Law; Bertrall Ross, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law; Alex Stamos, Director, Stanford Internet Observatory, Stanford University; Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, MIT; Michael Tesler, Associate Professor of Political Science, UC Irvine; Ciara Torres-Spelliscy Professor of Law, Stetson University College of Law; and James Owen Weatherall, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, UC Irvine.

This report of the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy represents the personal views of its members in their personal capacities. Members do not speak for their employers, organizations, or funders.

The Committee’s work received generous financial support from the Democracy Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation. The project was organized by the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine’s Jack W. Peltason Center for the Study of Democracy.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law

The University of California, Irvine School of Law is a visionary law school and provides an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, prioritizes public service, and demonstrates a commitment to diversity within the legal profession. UCI Law students have completed more than 100,000 hours of pro bono work in the past decade. Forty-five percent of UCI Law’s graduates are students of color. The collaborative and interdisciplinary community at UCI Law includes extraordinary students, world-renowned faculty, engaged alumni, and enthusiastic supporters. More information on UCI Law is available here. Please follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ucilaw and SnapChat: ucilaw. 

Media Contact:

Mojgan Sherkat