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Judith Kelley, Dean of the Sanford School and expert in international comparative politics, interviewed three faculty members about the upcoming elections and challenges facing the democracy on Friday, October 2, in a virtual event called Stand For Democracy: Elections, Voting, and Politics.

The panel featured Sanford professors Phil Napoli, Mac McCorkle, and Deondra Rose, and was co-sponsored by Polis: Duke Center for Politics and the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. Phil Napoli and Judith Kelley discussed social media, disinformation, and challenging economics related to local journalism. Kelley talked with Professor Mac McCorkle about the election in North Carolina. She spoke with Professor Deondra Rose about structural inequality and marginalized communities and how this may affect voter turnout.

Napoli noted that the social media regulation landscape has changed very little since the discovery of foreign influence in the 2016 elections. Also, how inauthentic social media accounts have increased, as well as the policing of content by platforms. He strongly advocates that people do the work before sharing what could be disinformation. They talked about the new ways that campaigns are gathering personal information online. Also, Napoli discussed the challenging economics related to local journalism.

"I would encourage people to get their election news and information, good old fashioned way, consult trusted sources directly and not let a combination of your social network and the algorithms that you know control content curation on these platforms dictate what gets put in front of you." -Professor Phil Napoli

Kelley talked with McCorkle about his long history with North Carolina politics, and some of the issues North Carolinians face in 2020, for example, the lawsuit over mail-in ballots. North Carolina has historically been a touch point for issues surrounding voter suppression, but that safety and security of the polls is a nation-wide issue this year. McCorkle pointed to excess controversy for the purpose of stirring up the perception of illegitimacy even though it is not the reality.

"We're going to see an intensity of more ballot challenges, more unofficial poll watching." - Mac McCorkle III, J.D

Rose talked with Judith Kelley about structural inequality, voter ID requirements, and voter suppression. They discussed how in relationship to other democracies, the U.S. disproportionately incarcerates people, and with felon disenfranchisement, reforming this has been one of the repeated recommendations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for the U.S. who monitors international election security. There are challenges to voter participation for marginalized communities and younger voters who wonder why they should participate when they feel the entire system is corrupt. “Many people will opt out if they don't feel that there's legitimacy in voting institutions in the election,” Rose warned. “One of the challenges that we have in our political institutions is that there's so much inequality embedded in representation.”  

“There is this tension between having standards and rules and making sure that there is not fraud in participation and then making sure that people have equal access to the franchise.” –Professor Deondra Rose

The event concluded with a request that anyone watching make sure to vote.