USC Schwarzenegger Institute Hosts Election Science, Research, and Administration Conference

On May 16th and May 17th, the Schwarzenegger Institute, along with the Election Trust Initiative, States United Democracy Center, Democracy Fund, Data Viewpoint LLC, USC Center for Inclusive Democracy, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, USC Libraries, USC Price School of Public Policy, and the USC Department of Political Science and International Relations, welcomed 200 participants to USC’s campus for the 2024 Election Science, Research, and Administration (ESRA) Conference. Conference attendees included researchers, election administrators, practitioners, and nonprofit professionals from around the country, and world, who came together to discuss best practices in election administration. 

The conference featured many noteworthy presentations and discussions including a panel with our Academic Director Christian Grose, the nation’s top election lawyers, and esteemed faculty from Stanford, UCLA, and USC about how experts can be deployed to use data and academic evidence to protect American democracy in the courtroom and as advisors to local and state governments. Other panels featured election officials, academics, and practitioners discussing ways to improve emergency management at election offices; how to conduct recounts fairly and effectively; and recent legislative attempts to curtail philanthropic and government funding for voter access. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger Democracy Action Hero Award winner Chris Hollins gave the keynote address at the conference and discussed the threats facing election administrators in the lead-up to the 2024 election. Hollins explained that violent threats to election workers, formal barriers to voter access, and the need to fund nonpartisan election administration were key in the leadup to a fair election in 2024. Hollins was the election administrator in 2020 in Harris County, Texas, the country’s third-largest county; and now serves as an elected official in Houston. Following his keynote, Senior Politico reporter Melanie Mason interviewed Hollins about the future of American elections. 

The Election Science, Research, and Administration (ESRA) conference concluded with an exclusive visit to the Los Angeles County Ballot Counting facility. Following an address by L.A. County election administrator Dean Logan, participants learned how Los Angeles County leads the nation in its cutting-edge use of technology for election integrity and ballot counting. 

Photos by Tom Queally