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Ruth Greenwood

  • Man voting

    Weighing President Biden’s first year: Voting and elections

    January 11, 2022

    Harvard Law School election law expert Ruth Greenwood applauds the Biden administration’s support for new voting legislation, but says the filibuster remains an obstacle to finishing the job.

  • Challenges to the Voting Rights Act far from over

    December 2, 2021

    When the U.S. Supreme Court decided an important voting rights case earlier this year, its ruling made it more difficult for voters to challenge restrictive state voting laws.  Now, the state of Texas is making an argument that, if adopted, would further hobble use of what remains of the Voting Rights Act. ...In a one-paragraph concurring opinion in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the voting rights case decided last summer, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch said the court’s previous cases assumed that private parties had the right to bring lawsuits challenging state election laws under Section 2 of the VRA, but it was an “open question” the Supreme Court had not yet decided. Justice Clarence Thomas was the only other member to sign on to Gorsuch’s concurrence.  “If it hadn’t been for the Gorsuch line in Brnovich, I would have thought it was kind of a crazy argument,” said Ruth Greenwood, director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, of the Texas brief.

  • Tony Evers’ redistricting proposal narrows, but maintains GOP majorities

    November 3, 2021

    The final proposal for Wisconsin’s next political maps from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ redistricting commission would narrow, but still maintain, Republican legislative and congressional majorities in the state. ... Ruth Greenwood, director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, said she doesn’t believe the commission’s maps are fair for Democratic voters, adding that predicted efficiency gaps “show a large and durable skew in favor of Republican voters” for both the Assembly and Senate map proposals. PlanScore, a program that predicts precinct-level votes for districts based on past election results and U.S. Census data led by the Campaign Legal Center, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for nonpartisan maps, found that under the commission’s proposal Democratic candidates would take 35% of state Senate seats and 39% of Assembly seats with a near 50-50 Democratic and Republican vote share. Greenwood said this may be due to the commission’s prioritization of compactness over partisan fairness. Greenwood noted that the first priority Evers listed in his original executive order creating the commission was that maps shall, whenever possible, be “free from partisan bias and partisan advantage.” “That is not reflected in the resulting plans,” Greenwood said. Greenwood said last month Republicans’ proposal “essentially bakes in almost the same level of partisan advantage” as current districts.

  • Senate committee holds public hearing on GOP-drawn maps

    October 28, 2021

    A Senate committee will take public comment Thursday on the Republican proposal for [Wisconsin's] next 10-year political boundaries, maps that would likely ensure another decade of GOP majorities in the state Legislature. For Republicans, the GOP proposal for the state's legislative and congressional boundaries aligns with plans to retain the core of existing districts, but for Democrats and those seeking nonpartisan maps, the offering is just more of the same. ... PlanScore, a program that predicts precinct-level votes for districts based on past election results and U.S. Census data led by the Campaign Legal Center, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for nonpartisan maps, found the GOP proposal "essentially bakes in almost the same level of partisan advantage" as current districts, said Ruth Greenwood, director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School.

  • Just how partisan are the GOP ‘nonpartisan’ maps?

    October 22, 2021

    Republican legislative leaders unveiled their proposed redistricting maps Wednesday, as did the People’s Maps Commission, which provided updated versions of draft maps it had previously released. Both the GOP and the commission — formed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers but made up of a diverse group of community members who drew on extensive public input — say their maps are fair and nonpartisan. Democrats jumped on Republicans’ maps, put forward in a redistricting bill, as being overtly partisan and even more gerrymandered than the maps that have been in place for the last decade. Over the past 10 years, Republicans in the Assembly, who received less than half of the total votes statewide, secured around two-thirds of the districts thanks to the maps they drew after the last census. ... Ruth Greenwood, director of Harvard Law School’s Election Law Clinic and a self-declared “map enthusiast” and “political junkie” used the PlanScore and said that the Legislature’s maps “would almost certainly ensure a GOP majority in the Legislature for another decade.” Greenwood ran the GOP-drawn maps through PlanScore — a program that predicts precinct-level votes for districts based on past election results and U.S. Census data — and labeled the maps as unfair. PlanScore uses four metrics, and the Wisconsin GOP’s legislative maps in all four categories were labeled as having “a Republican skew.”

  • Republicans unveil proposed redistricting maps based largely on existing boundaries

    October 21, 2021

    Republican leaders on Wednesday unveiled their proposal for legislative and congressional district maps, which received immediate criticism for being based largely on existing GOP-drawn districts that have helped Republicans hold strong majorities in both chambers. As Republicans had promised, the GOP proposal would largely align with existing boundaries for legislative and congressional districts, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau. The Legislature must redraw political lines every decade based on the latest population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The mapmaking process can provide an advantage for the majority party based on how district lines are drawn. ... The proposed maps would almost certainly ensure a GOP majority in the Legislature for another decade, said Ruth Greenwood, director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School. Greenwood ran the GOP-drawn maps through PlanScore — a program that predicts precinct-level votes for districts based on past election results and U.S. Census data. “I’d say it’s as extreme as the gerrymander for the last 10 years,” Greenwood said. “It essentially bakes in almost the same level of partisan advantage and so we would expect to see another decade where it wouldn’t matter whether more people voted for Democrats than Republicans, Republicans would still maintain control.”

  • Could math that dates back to secret US atomic bomb labs help curb gerrymandering in NC?

    October 8, 2021

    It’s redistricting time in North Carolina. That’s when lawmakers will slice and dice our state into election districts that account for population shifts. How those lines are drawn can tip the balance of power here and in Congress. In a limited-run podcast from Under the Dome, we explore how lawmakers draw these maps, their impact on power in North Carolina’s political landscape and how new tools are changing the fight against gerrymandering. Part 3, Math on the front lines, is now available for streaming. Ruth Greenwood featured in Part 3.

  • Redistricting advocates hoping for fair maps after commission analysis found GOP lean

    October 5, 2021

    After a consultant told Michigan’s redistricting commission that its current draft maps for legislative districts would still largely favor Republicans, advocates who pushed to reform the state’s redistricting process say it’s imperative for the commission to land on competitively balanced maps. ... During Monday’s briefing, Ruth Greenwood, director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, highlighted several draft maps that would achieve desired efficiency ratings. Given Michigan’s traditionally competitive statewide races, Greenwood said it’s possible to draw competitive legislative lines while still respecting communities of interest, which refers to groups with historical similarities in close proximity to one another. “I think that it would just be naive to say that the political geography of Michigan doesn't allow for partisan fairness to be enforced,” Greenwood said.

  • WATCH: Speakers from Voters Not Politicians, Harvard Law discuss redistricting process

    October 4, 2021

    Speakers from Voters Not Politicians, the group that wrote and helped pass the constitutional amendment establishing the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, discussed Monday the state's redistricting process. They were joined by a speaker from Harvard Law [Ruth Greenwood, visiting assistant professor of law and director of the Election Law Clinic].

  • Crowd of people in front of the U.S. Capitol

    Is democracy in peril?

    September 23, 2021

    The state of American democracy will be examined in a lecture series, "Democracy," which had its first session this week and will continue through the fall and spring.

  • Facing tight timeline, voter-led Michigan redistricting commission on steep learning curve

    September 17, 2021

    Michigan's first-ever citizen redistricting commission is finding itself on a steep learning curve as members race against the clock to draw new maps ahead of the 2022 election, crunching a months-long process into a matter of weeks following an unprecedented delay in census data. ... While some states include competitiveness in their redistricting criteria, the commission isn’t required to draw districts that ensure that candidates from each political party have an equal chance of winning. But the maps overall can’t give any party a leg up. The result is that Democratic and Republican voters will be treated fairly, said Ruth Greenwood, the director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, said during a recent event held by Voters Not Politicians. While those who make up a political minority in their district might not feel represented by the legislator from their district, Greenwood noted that individual voters are also represented by the entire legislative body. "When they make a decision, it doesn’t matter what your rep has said, it matters what the whole body does," she said.

  • Can New Technology Tools Keep Redistricting Honest and Fair?

    September 16, 2021

    With the arrival of the 2020 Census redistricting data, voting maps have become the latest front in America’s never-ending, two-party battle for control of Congress and statehouses. ...Attorney Ruth Greenwood shares Bradlee’s and Duchin’s belief that better and more data can improve redistricting outcomes, but she brings a different skill set to this challenge. The director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, she is actively engaged in election law litigation, and took two partisan gerrymandering cases from trial to the Supreme Court. Greenwood is a co-founder of PlanScore, a free online resource that measures partisan gerrymandering against four distinct measures. ... “When we started, it would take 10 minutes to run a plan, which was still amazing compared to my many hours of work to analyze a plan,” says Greenwood. Since then, the software has evolved to be able to accomplish this task in under 90 seconds.

  • Langdell Hall in the fall

    Faculty on the move

    September 1, 2021

    With the start of the academic year, a look at nine faculty who have joined Harvard Law School, been promoted, or taken on new roles in 2021.

  • Illustration of arms raised, holding a piece of paper with a checkmark, in front of an American flag.

    Training a new generation of election law lawyers

    April 7, 2021

    Harvard Law Today spoke with Ruth Greenwood about the new Election Law Clinic and why she thinks it is important to train a new generation of lawyers to practice in this burgeoning field.

  • Empty voting booths at a polling place

    Election Law Clinic launches at Harvard Law School

    April 7, 2021

    Harvard Law School has announced the launch the new Election Law Clinic, which will give students the opportunity to work on a broad range of cutting-edge issues in areas such as redistricting, voting rights, campaign finance, and party regulation.

  • Martha Minow and Emily Broad Leib

    COVID and the law: What have we learned?

    March 17, 2021

    The effect of COVID-19 on the law has been transformative and wide-ranging, but as a Harvard Law School panel pointed out on the one-year anniversary of campus shutdown, the changes haven’t all been for the worse.

  • Molly Brady wearing a bright red jacket sits in front of a computer and teaches her class in Zoom

    2020 in pictures

    January 5, 2021

    A look back at the year at HLS.

  • Zoom meeting with five HLS faculty

    Election 2020 debrief: What happened and what’s next?

    November 5, 2020

    In an “Election 2020 Debrief” event, a panel of Harvard Law School professors agree that the essential divisions of the American electorate remain unresolved, but find cause for some highly cautious optimism.

  • Iluustration of people six feet apart mailing in a vote

    When Voting Is a Risky Choice

    August 4, 2020

    The November 2020 general election was shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated, nerve-wracking and deeply contested elections in American history, with most onlookers expecting record-breaking voter turnout. Then a pandemic hit.

  • Democrat and Republican vote buttons

    Voting Rights Litigation and Advocacy Clinic launches at HLS

    February 26, 2020

    Harvard Law School has launched a new Voting Rights Litigation and Advocacy Clinic. The clinic joins the 46 legal clinics and student practice organizations that make up the school’s clinical program.