Politics & Polls #14: The Fight to Vote

Oct 06 2016
By Julian Zelizer & Sam Wang (Produced by B. Rose Kelly and Bonelys Rosado)
Source Woodrow Wilson School

Despite this year’s tense presidential debates, fierce political battles and polarized atmosphere, it still comes down to one simple act: marking your ballot. While it takes mere seconds, voting remains at the heart of our democracy.

But voting wasn’t always so easy. The issue of voting rights in America has been long debated and has changed dramatically since the country was founded. From then until now, Americans have fought for the right to vote, while many tried to stop them.

In episode 14, professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang interview Michael Waldman, author of “The Fight to Vote,” a book chronicling the long struggle to win voting rights for all citizens.

Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy and law institute based at New York University that is focused on issues related to democracy and justice. From 1995 to 1999, he served as the director of speechwriting for President Bill Clinton. He was responsible for writing or editing nearly 2,000 speeches. He is the author of numerous books and publications including “The Second Amendment,” which traces the ongoing argument on gun rights from the Bill of Rights to present day.


Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 
Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has been one of the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the author of several books including, most recently, "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." Zelizer is a frequent commentator in the international and national media on political history and contemporary politics. He has published more than 600 hundred op-eds, including his weekly column on CNN.com

Wang is professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is known for his books "Welcome to Your Brain" and "Welcome to Your Child's Brain" and for his founding role at the Princeton Election Consortium, a blog providing U.S. election analyses. In 2004, Wang was one of the first to aggregate U.S. presidential polls using probabilistic methods. In 2012, his statistical analysis correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states. He has also developed new statistical standards for partisan gerrymandering. A neuroscientist, Wang's academic research focuses on the neuroscience of learning, the cerebellum and autism.