Conference Agenda

A framework for an inclusive democracy

All plenary sessions are in the Ballroom unless otherwise noted.

7:30-8:30 Breakfast and Registration

Welcome: Overview of Conference Goals

Karen Hobert Flynn – President, Common Cause
Gracia Hillman – Vice President for External Affairs, Howard University

8:45-9:00 Morton Halperin
Senior Adviser
Open Society Foundations

Opening Plenary: Laying Foundations: Strategies for Building an Inclusive Democracy
This plenary will examine the political landscape in light of the outcome of the November elections, focusing on the work ahead for leaders in the movement for an inclusive, representative democracy.

Karen Hobert Flynn
Common Cause

Kristen Clarke
President & Executive Director
National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Morton Halperin
Senior Advisor
Open Society Foundations

Commissioner Karen Narasaki
Civil and Human Rights Leader

Daniel Gotoff
Lake Research Partners

9:50 - 10:00

Tom Hicks
U.S. Election Assistance Commission


Breakout Session A | Ballroom
Re-framing the Debate for a Changing Nation
This panel will examine how democracy reformers may use the nation’s shifting demographics to influence the priorities of the new administration in addressing issues of systemic racism and criminal justice. We will discuss issues including money in politics and racial profiling and explore innovative solutions to ensure that the American justice system runs according to law and principles of fairness.

Wendy Fields
Executive Director
Democracy Initative

Ashindi Maxton
Senior Advisor
Women Donors Network

Nadia Aziz, Esq.
Government Relations Director
Arab American Institute

Ifeoma Ike
Executive Director
Black and Brown Vote


Breakout Session B | Gallery Lounge
Love it or list it? How do we give people a voice in choosing our electeds?

The bipartisan consensus in favor of voting rights has disappeared amid legal fights over who is allowed to vote and when and how people can vote. We’ll look at efforts to erect and dismantle hurdles to the ballot box and ways to provide all citizens with opportunities to participate in our democracy -- on Election Day and before.  Discussion topics will include the National Popular Vote Compact, the Electoral College, Top 2 and Top 4 voting systems, instant runoff voting and election schedules.

Pam Wilmot
Executive Director
Common Cause Massachusetts

Andy Kang
Legal Director
Advancing Justice-Chicago

Michelle Whittaker
Communications Director

George Cheung
Former Senior Program Officer
Joyce Foundation's Democracy Program


Breakout Session C | Digital Auditorium
Leveling the Landscape: Digital and Media Equity
The media played an important and controversial role in the 2016 elections. This session will examine how democracy reformers can influence coverage to better inform the electorate going forward.  We’ll review recent wins in fights for net neutrality and improved access to broadband and how we’ll use those victories in the fights we anticipate ahead.

Brandi Collins
Campaign Director for Media and Economic Justice
Color of Change

Daniel Shuman
Policy Director
Demand Progress

Amina Fazlullah
Director of Policy
Benton Foundation

Todd O'Boyle
Director for Media and Democracy
Common Cause


Breakout Session D | Room 150
A House Built of Bits: Civic Tech, Government, and Democracy
The explosive growth of civic technology helps citizens engage in civic life and supports government responsiveness.  What are the advantages of those changes and the opportunities to empower citizens to use these tech tools to gain a larger say in politics and government? We will also address how government can work with private entrepreneurs in a transparent and accountable way.

Marci Harris
Co-Founder & CEO

Micah Sifry
Editorial Director & Co-Founder
Personal Democracy Media

Sam Blakeslee
Founding Director
Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Tiana Epps-Johnson
Founder and Executive Director
Center for Technology and Civic Life


Breakout Session A | Ballroom
Redistricting Reforms: Using Every Tool in the Toolbox to Boost Participation
Traditional election district lines are drawn behind closed doors and are notorious for being gerrymandered. We will discuss ways to change the redistricting process to promote citizen participation in challenging, influencing, and even drawing the maps.

Dan Vicuña
National Redistricting Manager
Common Cause

Susan Lerner
Executive Director
Common Cause New York

Leonard Gorman
Executive Director
Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission

Ra Joy
Executive Director
Change Illinois


Breakout Session B | Digital Auditorium
How Do We Build People-centered Elections?
In this panel, we’ll look at some of the problems we saw in the 2016 primaries – problems that are not new and that recur because of our current system – with the aim of considering a handful of alternative solutions.

Allegra Chapman
Director of Voitng and Elections
Common Cause

Stuart Naifeh
Voting Rights Lawyer

Elena Nunez
Executive Director
Colorado Common Cause

Breanna Ross
United States Student Association


Breakout Session C | Room 150
Power Tools for an Informed Democracy
An informed democracy is the centerpiece of a working democracy. Panelists in this session will discuss the intersection of transparency in government, local activism, and nonprofit investigative journalism and how each strengthens the other.

Jenn Topper
Communications Director
Sunlight Foundation

Jenny Zou
Investigative Journalist
Center for Public Integrity

Fiona Morgan
Journalism Program Director
Free Press

Michael Morisy


Breakout Session D | Gallery Lounge
Fighting the Power of Money in Politics: Amplifying Voices
While most Americans agree that money is destroying our politics, they don’t necessarily believe the solutions advanced by democracy reformers will adequately address the problem.  Local campaigns sprouting up across the country are making reform possible and engaging citizens.  This session will look to debrief the 2016 campaign and plan ahead for 2017.

Kate Titus
Executive Director
Common Cause Oregon

Dan Krassner
Political Director

Marilyn Carpinteyro
Director of State Operations
Common Cause

Susan Mottet
Senior Legislative Campaign Strategist
Every Voice


Lunch: The Promise and Peril of Executive Authority
As our nation prepares for President-elect Trump to take office, we will discuss the scope and uses of presidential power, including the history of executive authority and change and continuity in how presidents use their authority in domestic and foreign affairs. We’ll also examine the implications of the growth of executive authority for the programs and politics of the incoming Administration.

Paul S. Ryan
Vice President of Policy and Litigation
Common Cause

Bob Bauer
Partner, Perkins Coie
Former White House Counsel, President Obama


Breakout Session A | Gallery Lounge
Congress: The Ultimate Fixer-Upper

We will discuss ways reformers can address gridlock in Congress, from promoting collegiality to increasing diversity, to stimulating a robust, healthy debate about policy proposals.  Topics include ethics and lobbying reform, as well as oversight responsibilities.

Betsy Wright Hawkings
Program Director, Governance Initiative
Democracy Fund

Margaret Kimbrell White
Executive Director
No Labels

Dr. James Thurber
American University

Aaron Scherb
Director of Legislative Affairs
Common Cause


Breakout Session B | Digital Auditorium
Remodeling a Room: How Do We Modernize and Secure Voter Registration?

Before, during, and after the primary season, we saw a number of problems crop up with voter registration – the gatekeeper to the ballot box.  This session will address what happened, how much of the country is moving forward with strong voter registration modernization, lessons learned in 2016, and what more needs to be done to ensure full registration and full participation.

Jenny Flanagan
Vice President of State Operations
Common Cause

Myrna Pérez
Deputy Director
Brennan Center's Democracy Program

Amber McReynolds
Director of Elections
Denver, Colorado

Pam Smith
Verified Voting


Breakout Session C | Ballroom
Courts and Accountability
From SCOTUS on down, our court system needs upgrades to ensure that it can deliver equal justice. This panel will address Supreme Court ethics, judicial term limits, and an agenda to make lower courts fair courts as well.

Anita Earls
Founder & Executive Director
Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Marissa Brown
WhyNot Initiative

Michele Jawando
Vice President, Legal Progress
Center for American Progress


Breakout Session D | Room 150
The Biggest Threat To Our Democracy You Have Never Heard Of: An Article V Constitutional Convention
As wealthy special interests move closer to reaching the constitutionally-required support of 34 states to call an Article V constitutional convention, this panel will examine the threat of a runaway convention and the opportunity to persuade states to rescind their Article V calls.

Jay Riestenberg
Campaign & State Media Strategist
Common Cause

Caroline Fredrickson
American Constitution Society

Gavin Geis
Executive Director
Common Cause Nebraska

3:00-4:00 Table Conversations

A Solid Foundation: Collaboration Among Advocates in the Field and Funders
Advocates in the field and funders representing large donors and foundations are working together to improve our democracy. This discussion will lift up the importance of collaboration between the practitioners and funders in the democracy field.

Eric Marshall
Executive Director
Funders' Committee for Civic Participation

Trellis Stepter
Program Officer
Mertz Gilmore Foundation

Keesha Gaskins-Nathan
Program Director, Democratic Practice–United States
Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Kathay Feng
Executive Director
Califorina Common Cause

5:15-7:30 Reception

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