Monday, March 15, 2010

Championing Election Reform

This past Sunday, March 14th, the second event in the Life and Legacy of Jeannette Rankin Program Series went off without a hitch at the Athens Clarke County Public Library.

The afternoon began with introductions from JR130 Committee Members (and Rankin Foundation founding mothers) Heather Kleiner and Reita Rivers. Yet another founding mother, Susan Bailey, served as the moderator for the event. She introduced the panelists and provided some commentary about Jeannette Rankin’s beliefs and work in election reform during her lifetime.

Bailey recalled for the crowd Rankin’s tireless work in favor of women’s suffrage in her home state of Montana and how her early reputation and penchant for leading grass roots campaign efforts led to her own campaign for the U.S. Congress in 1916. Rankin's successful election to the body made her the first women elected to the United States Congress; though not until 1920, with the adoption of the 19th amendment, did women throughout the United States win the right to vote. Bailey described Rankin’s interest in preferential voting and multiple-member districts, ideas that were thought unachievable in her own lifetime but now hold greater potential with the adoption of computerized voting systems. Our moderator then introduced the program panelists and allowed them each time for brief presentations, followed by questions from the audience.
  • Dr. Paul-Henri Gurian, Professor of Political Science at UGA, provided an overview of various voting systems, including preferential voting. He ably described the differences between the systems and how each type can affect the overall outcome of an election. Further, he commented on Electoral College reform and how such reform would impact campaign strategies in U.S. elections.
  • Dr. M.V. Hood, also a Professor of Political Science at UGA, provided a quick talk on collected in recent studies examining why people vote when they vote. These studies explore the impact of recently expanded early- and advanced-voting options available to voters in Georgia.
  • Allison Bracewell-McCullick, who served as Special Projects Coordinator under Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox (1999-2002), offered some stories from her practical experience. Bracewell-McCullick played a significant role in voter education efforts across the state as Georgia adopted electronic ballots. She gave some interesting insight into the high rate of voter error experienced in the state during the 2000 Presidential election, and described how increased education efforts were able to drastically reduce the error in the 2002 election.
Following the program, presenters and attendees adjourned to delicious refreshments, courtesy of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation (and facilitated by the indefatigable Susan Bailey). In total, we had a headcount of attendees! Next week the program series will return to the Community Room at the Oconee Public Library for a talk from historian Joan Hoff at 3PM.

For more information about the program series, visit the Russell Library website, or connect up on Facebook or Twitter, or give us a good old fashioned phone call at (706) 542-5788. Hope to see you at next week’s event.

Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

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