Politics & Polls #179: Ensuring Election Integrity Featuring Ellen Weintraub

Apr 08 2020
By Brillian Bao
Source Woodrow Wilson School

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court forcing Wisconsin residents to the polls during a global pandemic, many are wondering how 2020’s remaining elections may unfold. Congress is debating a massive expansion of absentee voting, and questions around microtargeting and dark money have resurfaced. Amid public health concerns and an increase in online campaigning, how do we protect the integrity of our elections?

Ellen Weintraub joins Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang to talk about how to make voting available to every citizen. Weintraub discusses the importance of an informed electorate and the regulatory jurisdiction of the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC), where she has served as a commissioner since 2002.

Weintraub most recently served as chair of the Commission in 2019 — her third time in this role. She has called for meaningful campaign-finance law enforcement and robust disclosure. Prior to her appointment to the FEC, Weintraub served as counsel to the House Ethics Committee.


Wang is a professor at Princeton University, appointed in neuroscience with affiliate appointments in the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Center for Information Technology Policy. An alumnus of Caltech, where he received a B.S. with honors in physics, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Stanford University School of Medicine. He conducted postdoctoral research at Duke University Medical Center and at Bell Labs Lucent Technologies. He has also worked on science and education policy for the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He is noted for his application of data analytics and poll aggregation to American politics. He is leading an effort at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to build a 50-state data resource for legislative-quality citizen redistricting. His work to define a state-level legal theory to limit partisan gerrymandering recently won Common Cause’s Gerrymandering Standard Writing Contest. His neuroscience research concerns how the brain learns from sensory experience in early life, adulthood and autism.

Zelizer has been among the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN political analyst. He has written more than 900 op-eds, including his popular weekly column for CNN.com and The Atlantic. This year, he is the distinguished senior fellow at the New York Historical Society, where he is writing a biography of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel for Yale University's Jewish Lives Series. He is the author and editor of more than 19 books including, “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society,” the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress. In January 2019, Norton published his new book, co-authored with Kevin Kruse, “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.” In spring 2020, Penguin Press will publish his other book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.” He has received fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation and New America.