Richard Sobel

- 2020
Visiting Scholar, Buffett Center, Northwestern University
Associate, Du Bois Institute, Harvard University

Richard Sobel passed away on March 2, 2020. Read his obituary in the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

About Richard

Sobel’s expertise ranges over issues of American politics and government, public opinion, foreign policy and national security, constitutional law and civil liberties, political communications, and public policy. His recent research emphases have been on voting rights, citizenship, and national ID systems, such as E-Verify in the immigration bills, that conflict with the foundations for the rights to privacy, employment and travel. Upon learning about political participation in college and serving as a community organizer thereafter, Sobel developed a particular interest in studying modes of political participation, including participation in community planning and how work participation affects political participation, as well as more traditional questions of political involvement. Sobel has been involved with community organizing and community development for a group in Camden, NJ. He has also served on the board of two ACLU affiliates, discussing privacy and civil liberties issues and is the director of the Cyber Privacy Project, which participates in educational and advocacy projects around privacy and identification issues. Sobel was awarded the 2017 George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language for Citizenship as Foundation of Rights: Meaning for America. 


In the News

Richard Sobel quoted on the unconstitutionality of voter IDs by Eric Garcia, "Voter ID Laws are Costing Taxpayers Millions" New Republic, October 3, 2014.
Richard Sobel quoted on photo identification programs, "Digital ID System Won’t Halt Employment of Undocumented Immigrants, Experts Say" Medill News Service, July 17, 2013.
"ID Rules Would Threaten Citizens Rights," Richard Sobel, CNN, June 13, 2013.
"Trying to Steer Public Opinion," Richard Sobel (with David Nelson), Baltimore Sun, January 22, 2006.
"Anti-Terror Campaign Has Wide Support, Even at the Expense of Cherished Rights," Richard Sobel, Chicago Tribune, November 4, 2001.
"Constraining the Colossus," Richard Sobel, Kennedy School Bulletin, Fall 2001.


Citizenship as Foundation of Rights: Meaning for America (Cambridge University Press , 2016).

Explores the nature and meaning of American citizenship and the rights flowing from citizenship and the rights flowing from citizenship in the context of current debates around politics, including immigration. Explains the sources of citizenship rights in the Constitution and focuses on three key citizenship rights- the right to vote, the right to employment, and the right to travel in the United States. Explains why those rights are fundamental and how national identification systems and ID requirements to vote, work, and travel undermine the fundamental citizens' rights.

"The High Cost of ‘Free’ Voter IDs," Houston Institute, July 2013.
Discusses constitutional issues about ID requirements to vote and measures the burden of the ID voting requirement, especially on minorities, women, and the elderly.
"The Fourth Amendment Beyond Katz, Kyllo and Jones: Reinstating Justifiable Reliance as a More Secure Standard for Privacy" (with Barry Horwitz and Gerald Jenkins). Boston University Public Interest Law Journal 22, no. 1 (2013).

Argues a more secure constitutional basis for protecting privacy in the “justifiable reliance” standard that was developed in the Katz decision against wire-tapping.

"The Right to Travel: A Fundamental Right of Citizenship" (with Ramón L. Torres). Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy 20 (2013).
Argues the right to travel as robust in constitutional law and that photo identification regulations impermissibly require citizens to relinquish one fundamental right of privacy in order to exercise another fundamental right of travel.
Public Opinion and International Intervention: Lessons of the Iraq War (with Peter Furia and Bethany Barratt) (Potomac Books, 2012).
Tests the theory of constraint on 12 countries, six members of the Iraq “coalition of the willing,” and six members of the “coalition of the unwilling.”
"Voter ID Issues in Political Science and Politics" PS: Political Science and Politics 42, no. 1 (2009).
Explores the extent to which photo voter IDs limit the right to vote, especially among minorities, women, and the elderly.
The Impact of Public Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy Since Vietna (Oxford University Press, 2001).
Develops the constraint theory that public opinion constrains, but does not set foreign policy. Argues that the theory is based partly on interviews with key decision makers from the Vietnam War to the Bosnia intervention.