The United States is not immune from electoral interference as evidenced from 2016 and 2020 which saw unprecedented levels of harassment and intimidation of election workers. The threats got so bad in the weeks before and after Election Day 2020 that several officials had to temporarily abandon their homes, fearing for their safety. Many experts have pointed to President Donald Trump’s attempt to delegitimize the 2020 election results as “rigged” — and the “Stop the Steal” movement he inspired — as the reason for targeting election officials. On top of that, election officials also been subjected to strict institutional constraints which limit their ability to do their jobs. Across the nation, state legislatures have taken steps to strip election officials of the power to run, count, and certify elections, consolidating power in their own hands over processes intended to be free of partisan or political interference.
All of this represents a mortal danger to American democracy, which cannot survive without public servants who can freely and fairly run our elections. We must ensure that they feel not only safe but also supported and appreciated for their critical efforts. This event will convene election officials from key battleground states to discuss the democratic impact of these threats what can be done to combat this issue.
This panel is part of the Defending American Democracy series with support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Jocelyn Benson, Secretary of State of Michigan
Jocelyn is Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State. In this role she is focused on ensuring elections are secure and accessible, and dramatically improving customer experiences for all who interact with her offices.
Benson is the author of State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process, the first major book on the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. She is also the Chair of Michigan’s Task Force on Women in Sports, created by Governor Whitmer in 2019 to advance opportunities for women in Michigan as athletes and sports leaders.
A graduate of Harvard Law School and expert on civil rights law, education law and election law, Benson served as dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. When she was appointed dean at age 36, she became the youngest woman in U.S. history to lead a top-100, accredited law school. She continues to serve as vice chair of the advisory board for the Levin Center at Wayne Law, which she founded with former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Previously, Benson was an associate professor and associate director of Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.
Prior to her election, she served as CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit organization using the unifying power of sports to improve race relations.
Benson is co-founder and former president of Military Spouses of Michigan, a network dedicated to providing support and services to military spouses and their children.
In 2015, she became one of the youngest women in history to be inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
Brian Corley, Supervisor of Elections, Pasco County, FL
Brian has been serving the citizens of Pasco County as their Supervisor of Elections since 2007 and in that time has presided over 70 elections with more than 2 million votes cast. During his tenure, the Pasco County Election’s office continues to be recognized for innovation, efficiency and transparency in serving the voters. He previously served in senior managerial positions with the Pasco County Clerk of the Circuit Court, as well as the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
He is a state-certified election administrator by the Florida Department of State and is the past president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. He has testified numerous times before Florida Legislative Senate and House committees on election and voting related issues.
Nationally, Corley has been a featured speaker and panelist with such organizations as The Bi-Partisan Policy Center, The Elections Assistance Commission, The International Association of Government Officials, The Center for Internet Security, The Pew Charitable Trusts “Voting Information Project” Committee, The National Election Center (Election Cybersecurity Taskforce), the “Vote at Home” Advisory Council, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Government Operations and is an instructor with the Florida Certified Election Professional Program.
Corley has been a resident of Pasco County since 1979 and a proud graduate of Pasco County schools. He has been actively involved in community service with multiple organizations to include: Pasco Education Foundation, Dade City Kiwanis Club, Take Stock in Children Program, Pasco County School District Vision Committee, One Community Now, USF MPA Advisory Board and Empowering Pasco Veterans Board of Directors. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of South Florida and has been an adjunct professor in Public Administration for both the University of South Florida and Barry University.
Bill Gates, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Maricopa County, AZ
Bill was re-elected to another four year term on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in 2020. Maricopa County is the fourth largest county in the United States with a population of over 4.5 million people. Bill represents over 900,000 residents as a Maricopa County Supervisor. He was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2016. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Board and was Chairman of the Board in 2019 when, among other things, Bill negotiated a re-organization of the Maricopa County Elections Department with then Maricopa County Adrian Fontes. Prior to joining the Board of Supervisors, Bill served on the Phoenix City Council from 2009-2016, including a stint as Vice Mayor in 2013.
Bill has been a lifelong Republican. He founded the Teenage Republican Club at his high school, was an officer in the Iowa Federation of College Republicans and also served as a Republican legislative district chair and the Secretary of the Maricopa County Republican Committee in the early 2000s. Bill also led the Arizona Republican Party’s election integrity efforts in 2006 and 2008 organizing a cadre of poll watchers and attorneys to ensure that every eligible vote was counted.
Bill has been featured in many publications regarding his work as a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors particularly as it relates to the operation of elections including the New York Times, Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist and The New Yorker. He has appeared on CNN, PBS, MSNBC, BBC as well as several local channels on this same topic.
Bill has practiced law in Phoenix, Arizona for nearly 25 years as serves on numerous non-profit boards. He has also been very active in law-related education serving as a regional coordinator and attorney-coach at the high school and intercollegiate levels since graduating from law school. Bill holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.S. from Drake University.
Bill served on Gov. Doug Ducey’s transition team in 2014 and was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation in 2006. Bill also was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission Intergovernmental Advisory Committee in 2018.
David Becker, Executive Director and Founder of the nonpartisan, non-profit Center for Election Innovation & Research
David is the Executive Director and Founder of the nonpartisan, non-profit Center for Election Innovation & Research, leading CEIR’s successful efforts to help election officials of both parties, all around the country, ensure that all eligible voters can vote conveniently in a system with maximum integrity. As one of the foremost elections experts in the country, with over two decades of experience, David is an expert on all aspects of election administration, including election cybersecurity, disinformation, foreign interference, long lines and other issues with in-person voting, mail and early voting, and voter registration.
Prior to founding CEIR, David was Director of the elections program at The Pew Charitable Trusts. As the lead for Pew’s analysis and advocacy on elections issues, David spearheaded development of the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which to date has helped a bipartisan group of thirty states update over 10 million out-of-date voter records, and helped those states register tens of millions of new eligible voters.
Before joining Pew, David served for seven years as a senior trial attorney in the Voting Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, overseeing voting rights enforcement in several states, including California and Georgia, and served as lead counsel on major voting rights litigation, including the case of Georgia v. Ashcroft, ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
David served as CBS’ election law expert during the 2020 election cycle, and his many appearances in the media include The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, and NPR, and is frequently published on election issues, including by the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Washington Post.
David received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a two-time champion on Jeopardy! and a winner on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.