SSN Election Protection & Enhancement Program

Strengthening Local Elections through the SSN Network

To meet the challenge of bolstering the decentralized U.S. election system, the Scholars Strategy Network is excited to launch the SSN Election Protection & Enhancement Program. Through this program, chapters or groups of members will work to organize local groups of academics to improve, increase participation in, and build trust in elections. Participating researchers will familiarize themselves with current and changing rules for running elections, build collaborative relationships with election administrators and university and community-based groups working on these issues, and help advocate for improvements to and greater trust in election systems.

A total of eight SSN Building Trust in Elections projects are underway:

  1. Bay Area - Driving Civic Engagement Among People in Jail

  2. Confluence - Promoting Participation and Trust in St. Louis Elections

  3. Florida - Strengthening Local Knowledge about Elections

  4. Georgia - Communicating Local Election Processes to Build Trust

  5. Maine - Understanding and Supporting Election Poll Workers

  6. Mississippi - Empowering Young Student Voters

  7. San Diego - Identifying and Countering Election Disinformation

  8. Virginia - Building Trust in Elections

Learn more about the projects and researchers below.

Bay Area - Driving Civic Engagement Among People in Jail

Project Objective:

Informing people in custody about their legal right to register and vote promises to increase their trust in and engagement with the electoral system—and communicating with public audiences, including the media, about the nuances of this right is critical to preventing false accusations of voter fraud and misconduct.

Project Leaders:

University of California-Berkeley

Hill is a political scientist at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Hill’s research examines how U.S. election laws such as same-day voter registration and vote-by-mail impact political participation, particularly among young people and other low-propensity groups, and explores the rise and impact of youth voter suppression.

University of California-Berkeley
amy lerman

Lerman is Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and Associate Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Her research is focused on issues of inequality, public opinion, and political behavior in America. She has published several award-winning books, and her most recent book, Good Enough for Government Work, examines how perceptions of government shape citizens’ attitudes toward privatization.

University of California, Berkeley
Meredith Sadin

Sadin is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Her work focuses on political inequality, especially in the context of the criminal legal system. In doing so, she has deep experience collaborating with practitioners, policymakers, and government agencies on projects designed to evaluate, implement, scale, and improve public policies and programs.



Confluence - Promoting Participation and Trust in St. Louis Elections

Project Objective:

Creating and building initiatives to promote voter participation and trust in elections in the St. Louis region by partnering with local election administrators on research, voter access, and education.

Project Leaders:

University of Illinois at Chicago

Clendenen is a Phd Candidate in Comparative Politics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Clendenen's research focuses on the politics of material heritage. Overarching themes of Clendenen's writings include the development of national identities in the rural-urban divide. 

University of Missouri-St. Louis
David Kimball

Kimball is Professor and Interim Chair of the Political Science department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and co-leader of the Confluence SSN chapter. His research examines election administration, voting behavior, public opinion, and interest groups in the United States. He has participated as an expert in several court cases related to election administration, voting rights, and redistricting.


University of Missouri-St. Louis
Manion Headshot

Manion is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Affiliate Faculty Member in Gender Studies at the University of Missouri-St.Louis. Manion's research focuses on the impact of policy on issues of equity, particularly in areas of education and elections. Her studies examine the impact of 4-day weeks on Missouri school districts, perceptions of voter fraud and election reform, and other policy matters.





Florida - Strengthening Local Knowledge about Elections

Project Objective:

The project aims to support local election officials by creating training materials and supporting outreach activities within communities to foster a better understanding of election administration in Florida.

Project Leaders:

University of Montana
Barsky (peterman) photo UM Website Size 2020 (1).jpg

Barsky is an Assistant Professor in Public Administration and Policy at the University of Montana. Her research focuses on election administration, state and local government, and nonprofit administration. She also serves on the Missoula County Election Advisory Committee.

Florida International University
Bustinza Headshot

Bustinza is a PhD candidate at Florida International University whose dissertation examines how the decisions of local election administrators impact democracy. She is an active member of the League of Women Voters in Miami-Dade County and was an intern at the Supervisor of Elections office in Miami-Dade County.

Florida International University

Clark is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Public Policy and Administration at Florida International University. Her research focuses on democracy, election administration, and social movements. She has practical experience in elections as she was the Early Voting coordinator for Palm Beach County in 2020.



Georgia - Communicating Local Election Processes to Build Trust

Project Objective:

Raise awareness in Georgia of the actual administrative and technical processes that support and assure safe and trustworthy elections, or any constructive new approaches to building confidence in US elections.

Project Leaders:

Emory University
Bolton Headshot

Bolton studies American politics, with a focus on executive branch politics and policymaking. Prior to joining the faculty at Emory in 2016, Dr. Bolton held a postdoctoral position at Duke University's Social Science Research Institute.

Emory University

Doner’s academic work focuses on variation in economic development, especially upgrading and innovation, as a function of institutions and politics. Doner’s civic involvement has included decade-long participation in a school mentoring program; organization of and participation in Emory activities related to citizenship, race, democracy and labor; and extensive participation in presidential campaigns, including the creation of a "speakers bureau" to engage rural Georgia voters.

CDC Division of Global AIDS
St. Louis Headshot

St. Louis is a Senior Advisor for Health Systems in the CDC Division of Global AIDS. He has worked at CDC for 25 years across a range of infectious disease and public health issues, including a tour as Chief of Epidemiology at Projet SIDA in Kinshasa, DRC.




Maine - Understanding and Supporting Election Poll Workers

Project Objective:

Poll workers are critically important to the functioning of American democracy. Yet our loose patchwork of local election administration is under serious threat. This project aims to enrich our understanding of this vital role through the initiation of a research-practice collaboration with Maine’s local election officials, statewide civic organizations devoted to democracy and good governance, and the Maine Secretary of State’s office.

Project Leaders:

University of Maine
Rob Glover Headshot

Glover’s research deals with the implications of citizenship and immigration policy for how we understand political membership, participation, and community. In his teaching, Glover leads an innovative series of courses in which students and local community partners engage in collaborative research to confront local challenges utilizing existing assets and resources.

University of Maine

LaBouff is a social psychologist who focuses on relationships between different groups. Most of his research investigates the roles of beliefs (both religious and moral) and religious group membership on people’s attitudes and behaviors. He is particularly interested in how these beliefs, and reminders of these beliefs, might influence cultural and political processes.

Colby College

LeVan’s research focuses on mobilization and social networks and their role in affecting the participation of individuals from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Current projects include investigating the influence of personal relationships on the turnout rates of low status voters, and exploring the effect of having politically engaged neighbors on one’s propensity to vote.



Mississippi - Empowering Young Student Voters

Project Objective:

This project aims to connect different stakeholders from the Mississippi State University community with local election officials from Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, to facilitate the implementation of nonpartisan voter education and civic engagement activities. The goal of this project is to educate young student voters about the election process, increase on-campus civic engagement, and promote student voter participation in the 2022 election.

Project Leaders:

Mississippi State University
Baker Headshot

Baker is an Instructor of Political Science and Undergraduate Coordinator. Baker is the faculty advisor for MSU College Democrats, and is teaching Introduction to American Government in the Fall of 2022, with a 200-student enrollment. She has agreed to involve her students on National Voter Registration Day as a class activity in lieu of teaching that day and will offer her students the option to participate in the “March to the Polls” GOTV activity on Election Day.

Mississippi State University
Chamberlain Headshot

Chamberlain is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the MA in Political Science. Chamberlain is teaching Introduction to Political Theory in the Fall of 2022, with a 45-student enrollment. He has agreed to involve his students on National Voter Registration Day as a class activity in lieu of teaching that day and will offer his students the option to participate in the “March to the Polls” GOTV activity on Election Day.


Mississippi State University
Thessalia Merivaki Headshot

Merivaki is an Assistant Professor of American Politics at Mississippi State University, and the faculty advisor for MSUCollege Republicans. Merivaki is an election sciences expert and has collaborated with local election officials on research, voter registration training and outreach, poll worker programs, and student run exit polls. She has also established a partnership with the Mississippi Secretary of State. Merivaki is a founding member of Mississippi State University’s Voter Friendly Campus Taskforce, which was created in 2018, after Merivaki piloted campus-wide, student-run voter registration and mobilization activities.



San Diego - Identifying and Countering Election Disinformation

Project Objective:

Creating a network that brings together key civic engagement groups across the county, the Registrar of Voters office, and scholars at local universities. Holding meetings both before and after the 2022 elections, the network’s initial focus will be on understanding the types of disinformation that target diverse voters and identifying effective strategies at countering them going forward. Our long-term goal is to build momentum toward a sustainable network that will enhance participation and trust in San Diego elections.

Project Leaders:

San Diego State University

Adams is a Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University and a co-leader of the San Diego SSN chapter. His research focuses on democratic practices in local governments (both electoral and nonelectoral).

University of California - San Diego
Kousser Headshot

Kousser is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. Kousser led the New Electorate Project, a multicampus UC team of scholars who formed partnerships with state and local elections officials in California to study the impact of election reforms on overall turnout and on participation by groups that have been underrepresented in state politics.



Virginia - Building Trust in Elections

Project Objective:

The goal of our proposed initiative is to repair some of the damage that has been done by tackling election distrust in The Commonwealth of Virginia and supporting a series of initiatives designed to promote trust in elections in the state of Virginia, focusing specifically on a rural, college-town (Harrisonburg city) and the surrounding county (Rockingham county).

Project Leaders:

James Madison University
Benjamin Blankenship

Blankenship is a co-leader of the Virginia SSN chapter. Blankenship's research focuses on the role of identity and stereotypes on the political engagement, belonging, and well-being of marginalized groups, specifically focusing on groups with concealable identities.

Bridgewater College
Bobbi Gentry

Gentry is a co-leader of the Virginia SSN chapter. Gentry is a scholar of teaching and learning who focuses on improving student engagement in the classroom through simulations, policy problem/solution proposals, and research projects. She is also a youth voting scholar and does extensive research in political identity.