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Lincoln Ideas Forum: Voting Rights

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President Lincoln's Cottage

140 Rock Creek Church Road Northwest

Washington, DC 20011

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In April of 1865, Lincoln proposed offering the vote to black soldiers who had served in the Union Army. It would turn out to be one of his final speeches: it's thought that this proposal is part of the reason Booth accelerated his plans to assassinate the president. This year, we will explore the pressing issues around voting rights as our theme for the fifth annual Lincoln Ideas Forum. Join us as we bring together experts, scholars, and the public in an exploration of the historic contexts of citizenship, voting rights, and the Constitution, alongside the contemporary repercussions of debates over who gets elective franchise.

This program is free and open to the public. Please register to reserve your space.

This program is presented in partnership with the Constitutional Sources Project.

Speakers include:

Robert Tsai, American University

Robert L. Tsai is Professor of Law at American University and a prize-winning essayist in constitutional law and history. Though he was born in Taiwan, he has always considered America his home. In fact, one of the proudest moments of his life was the day he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Tsai’s research spans constitutional law, legal history, democratic theory, American political culture, social movements, criminal procedure, presidential leadership, and radical constitutionalism. He has written about the legal obstacles placed in the way of black civil rights activists, President Franklin Roosevelt and freedom of religion, the philosophy of John Brown and his followers, modern white supremacy and the militia movement, the Republic of New Afrika’s ideas about the Constitution, the historical treatment of migrants, and early socialism in America. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and worked under federal judges in New York and Boston: U.S. District Judge Denny Chin and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Hugh H. Bownes, before serving for several years as a civil rights lawyer in Georgia. His most recent book, Practical Equality: Forging Justice in a Divided Nation, is a call to arms to do the hard work of equality, brimming with historical lessons for how to make social progress in tough times.

Elaine Weiss, Author

Elaine Weiss is a Baltimore-based journalist and author, whose feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists; her byline has appeared in many national publications, as well as in reports for National Public Radio. Weiss' long-form writing garnered a Pushcart Prize "Editor's Choice" award, and she is a proud MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her first book, Fruits of Victory:The Woman's Land Army in the Great War was excerpted in Smithsonian Magazine online and featured on C-Span. Weiss' new book, The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote has won glowing reviews from the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and NPR, among others, and she has presented talks about the book and the woman suffrage movement across the country. Steven Speilberg's Amblin production company has optioned the book for adaptation, with Hillary Rodham Clinton serving as Executive Producer.

Jason Torchinsky, Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky PLLC

Jason Torchinsky is a partner at Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky PLLC.In addition to his practice counseling clients on compliance with campaign finance, ethics laws, lobbying disclosure and election laws, Jason has served as lead counsel in a number of litigation matters dealing with First Amendment freedoms and election law and redistricting issues. He has filed numerous amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, including one on behalf of the NRSC and NRCC cited in the Court’s opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Jason has also represented candidates across the country during post-election canvass and recount processes. Additionally, Jason serves as an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary School of Law, where he teaches about the IRS and political campaigns.

Prior to joining the firm, Jason was Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice. During the 2004 election cycle, Jason served as Deputy General Counsel to Bush-Cheney ’04 and Deputy General Counsel to the 2005 Presidential Inaugural Committee. He holds a B.A. in Government and Public Policy from the College of William and Mary and a J.D. from the College of William and Mary School of Law. He is a member of the Virginia Bar, the District of Columbia Bar, the Republican National Lawyers Association and the Federalist Society. Jason has been recognized by Chambers USA as one of the top “Government Law” attorneys in the country. He’s also been honored by Politico as one of the “50 Politicos to Watch,” and Campaigns and Elections Magazine named Jason a “Rising Star of Politics.”

Aderson Francois, Georgetown University

Professor Aderson Francois is the director of the Civil Rights Voting Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to joining the Georgetown faculty, Professor Francois directed the Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law, where he also taught Constitutional Law, Federal Civil Rights, and Supreme Court Jurisprudence. His scholarly interests include voting rights, education law, and the history of slavery and Reconstruction. His practice experience encompasses federal trial and appellate litigation concerning equal protection in education, employment discrimination, voting rights, marriage equality, and the right to a fair criminal trial. Professor Francois received his J.D. from New York University School and clerked for the late Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 2008, the Transition Team of President Barack Obama appointed Professor Francois Lead Agency Reviewer for the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has provided pro bono death penalty representation to inmates before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, served as a Special Assistant in with the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., and practiced commercial litigation in the New York Offices of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison. He has testified before Congress on civil rights issues and drafted numerous briefs to the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of California, the Supreme Court of Iowa, and Maryland’s highest court. Before joining Howard’s faculty, Professor François was the Assistant Director of the Lawyering Program at New York University School of Law.

Lillian Cunningham, Washington Post: Moderator

Lillian Cunningham is a journalist at The Washington Post. She is the creator and host of The Post’s “Presidential” and “Constitutional” podcasts. “Presidential” was a 2017 Webby Award honoree for best documentary podcast and a finalist for the Academy of Podcasters’ best news and politics podcast. Previously Lillian was the editor of The Post’s “On Leadership” section and won two Emmy Awards for her video interview series with leaders across politics, business and the arts.

The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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President Lincoln's Cottage

140 Rock Creek Church Road Northwest

Washington, DC 20011

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