Douglas M. Spencer

Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado Boulder
Chapter Member: Colorado SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Douglas

Spencer is an election law scholar whose research addresses the role of prejudice and racial attitudes in voting rights litigation, the empirical implications of campaign finance regulations, and the ways that election rules and political campaigns contribute to growing inequality in America. Spencer has worked as an expert witness in voting rights and campaign finance cases and, prior to law teaching, was a law clerk at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco, an election monitor in Thailand for the Asian Network for Free Elections, and a researcher for the Pew Center on the States’ Military and Overseas Voting Reform.


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In the News

Douglas M. Spencer's research on legality of national emergency discussed by Sean Illing, "Trump Declared a National Emergency at the Border. I Asked 11 Experts if it’s Legal.," Vox, February 15, 2019.
Douglas M. Spencer's research on the Mueller investigation discussed by Jim Malone, "Is End of Russia Probe in Sight?," Voices of America, December 3, 2018.
Douglas M. Spencer quoted by Sean Illing, "Did Rudy Giuliani Just Get Trump in Legal Trouble? I Asked 11 Legal Experts." Vox, May 3, 2018.
"Affirmative Action Setback in the Supreme Court Could be a Boost to Voting Rights," Douglas M. Spencer (with Christopher Elmendorf), The New Republic, April 29, 2014.
"Fears Over Impact of Citizens United May be Misplaced," Douglas M. Spencer (with Abby Wood), London School of Economics USApp Blog, January 27, 2014.
"How to Save the Voting Rights Act: Here’s the Best Option for Congress," Douglas M. Spencer (with Christopher Elmendorf), Slate, July 17, 2013.
"Are the Covered States ‘More Racist’ than Other States?," Douglas M. Spencer (with Christopher Elmendorf), Election Law Blog, March 4, 2013.


"In the Shadows of Sunlight: The Effects of Transparency on State Political Campaigns" (with Abby Wood). Election Law Journal 15, no. 4 (2016): 302-329.

Finds that speech-chilling effects of disclosure requirements are negligible, and that, on average, less than one donor per candidate is likely to stop contributing with the visibility of campaign contribution increases.

"Administering Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act after Shelby County" (with Christopher Elmendorf). Columbia Law Review 115, no. 8 (2015): 2143-2218.

Lays out a path for the courts, in partnership with the Department of Justice, to reform Section 2 of the VRA so that it fills much of the gap by the Supreme Court's evisceration of Section 5, presuming Congress does not reinstate a preclearance coverage formula. Argues that by adopting evidentiary presumptions whose application in any given case would be determined using national survey data and a common statistical model, the courts could greatly reduce the cost and uncertainty of Section 2 litigation.

"The Geography of Racial Stereotyping: Evidence and Implications for VRA “Preclearance” after Shelby County" (with Christopher S. Elmendorf). California Law Review 102, no. 5 (2014): 1123-1180.

Proposes a new, legally defensible approach to coverage base on between-sate differences in the proportion of voting age citizens who subscribe to negative stereotypes about racial minorities and vote accordingly.

"Citizens United States Divided: An Empirical Analysis of Independent Political Spending" (with Abby Wood). Indiana Law Journal 89, no. 1 (2014): 315-372.

Explores the impact of Citizens United on political spending, and finds that while independent expenditures increased across all states afterwards, the increase was more than twice as large in states whose bans on corporation and union spending were invalidated by the Supreme Court's decision.