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Experts & Research

Local and National Expertise

The faculty of the Sanford School of Public Policy faculty includes more than 100 scholars with expertise in domestic and international policy topics relevant to the 2020 elections. We welcome inquiries from journalists. Please contact the communications office. You can also browse election experts from across Duke's campus, by category.

North Carolina Political Analysis 

Polis: Center for Politics at Duke University runs the NC Politics 2020 website which provides nonpartisan analysis and easy-to-access reference materials on North Carolina politics. In addition to being Duke’s home, the state’s demographics and history of political volatility make it a fascinating microcosm of the country. Founded in 2015, Polis helps increase the understanding of politics, facilitate enriching political discourse, and prepare a new generation of leaders to engage in the political process.

Book: Fragile Democracy

New Book: Fragile Democracy, The Struggle Over Race and Voting Rights in North Carolina

North Carolina is a battleground for who has the right to vote, and under what circumstances. 

Fragile Democracy tells the story of race and voting rights, from the end of the Civil War until the present day. It shows how the struggles have played out through cycles. Professor Robert Korstand and his co-author argue that race has been used as an instrument of exclusion from political life, and the result has been a society in which vast numbers of Americans are denied the elements of meaningful freedom: a good job, a good education, good health, and a good home. 

Youth Voting

The U Can Vote NC Campus Challenge

The Sanford School’s Hart Leadership Program and Polis: Center for Politics are supporting the 2020 U Can Vote NC Campus Challenge. The competition fosters friendly competition and supports student voting. The competition is supported by You Can Vote (YCV), a Durham-based nonprofit dedicated to nonpartisan voter education. Volunteer to join a campus voting team, attend training sessions or learn more >> 

The ‘Why Vote’ Video Challenge

The Hart Leadership Program is hosting a 30-second video challenge, 'Why Vote?'. The goal of the competition is to generate the best 30-second pitches from students that would motivate peers to vote. Watch the spring 2020 winners:

Book: Making Young Voters

Book cover

A Duke political scientist (Sunshine Hillygus) and Sanford School PhD alumnus (John Holbein) team up to examine how distractions and institutional barriers often mean young voters fail to follow through on intentions to vote in their book, "Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action." Among their recommendations: Pre-registration at the DMV when getting a driver’s license at age 16; registration drives at high schools; and transforming high school civics courses to focus more on current topics and how to become an active voter. 


Ways & Means - Season 5 of the Sanford's School's award-winning narrative Ways and Means Podcast (sponsored by Polis: Center for Politics) focuses on issues related to elections, democracy and political leadership. Six episode series premieres fall 2020. Subscribe to Ways & Means >>

Policy 360 - Host Dean Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School, engages scholars and policymakers in thoughtful conversation about politics and policy. Biweekly. Subscribe to Policy 360 >>

The Political Student - Duke students are political students. Let's hear their stories.  Archived series. Follow the Political Student >> 

Scene on Radio - Produced by the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, Season 4 uses field recordings and interviews with leading thinkers to explore Democracy in the U.S. Biweekly.  Subscribe to Scene on Radio >>

Campus Voting & Political Engagement

4 Tips for Student Voters

Tips from Prof. Gunther Peck, Director of the Hart Leadership Program

1. Living on campus? Here is where you can register to vote.

Man, glasses, smiling
Gunther Peck

2. Early voting is the most accessible and best way to make sure your votes is counted and in a timely fashion.  Early voting begins October 15th. The early voting site on Duke’s campus is located at the new Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center. There are more than a dozen other early voting sites in Durham County. Voting in person is the very best way to make sure that there are no problems with your registration and that your vote is counted in a timely fashion. 

3. If you are registered to vote at Duke, you should nonetheless include requesting an absentee ballot by mail in case you are sent home due to COVID-19 before early voting begins.  You can request an absentee ballot by mail and then vote in person with no penalty or problem, as long as you don’t vote twice – a felony. Here is the link that explains how to request an absentee ballot. As of September 1, there will be an online portal.

4. Students can serve as a poll workers if they are residing in North Carolina this election cycle. (Durham needs 250 poll workers. The needs may be even greater in other parts of the state.) Poll workers are paid $200 dollars for working election day.  Here is the website at the State Board of Elections where people can get more information about working *(and being trained) as a poll worker.


The hub for voter information for Duke students is the Duke Votes website.  The site includes all of the information a Duke student needs to be an informed voter, including access to TurboVote, a system which makes makes registering to vote easy by walking students through the registration process on their online platform.

There will be an early-voting site in the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center.

West Campus residents vote at WI Patterson Rec Center, 2416 Crest St. East Campus residents vote only at George Watts Elementary School, 700 Watts St. For more information, visit the Durham County Board of Elections or the Duke Votes website.

Duke Policy on Campus Political Activity

Federal law prohibits Duke University from raising funds for a political candidate or political party. This prohibition includes using Duke funds, facilities, personnel, email addresses and systems, social media, or any other resources for partisan political activities. In addition, employees may not use the university seal, letterhead, symbols, logos or other identifiable marks of institutional affiliation (including images of Duke buildings) to endorse or promote political parties, campaigns or candidates. Read the complete policy >>

Political Opinions from Duke Scholars & Students

Find more political opinions on Duke Today