Multiracial Democracy Project

The Multiracial Democracy Project (the “Project”) is an initiative of the George Washington University Law School. Through research, analysis, convenings, and public education, the Project produces solutions that facilitate our nation’s transition to a well-functioning democracy that truly represents our increasingly diverse population. The Project serves as a bridge between academic, civil rights, democracy reform, technology, and policy communities, and is directed by Professor Spencer Overton.



The Challenge

By the year 2050, there will be no majority ethnic group in the United States. Thanks in part to federal laws enacted in 1965 that reduced discrimination in immigration and voting, the nation has made great strides toward becoming a racially inclusive, pluralistic democracy. Unfortunately, as the nation has become more diverse, key challenges have grown—such as disinformation, cultural anxiety, racial polarization, antidemocratic attitudes, and the decline of key voting rights protections. Generative artificial intelligence and related technologies will only magnify these problems. Research has shown that race is the most significant demographic factor that shapes voting patterns. The danger of demagogues playing on ethnicity and manipulating voting rules to entrench political power is real.



Policy Issues & Solutions

Currently, the Project is focused on two issues that are critical to the future of representative democracy in our diverse nation: artificial intelligence and alternative election methods.

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Artificial Intelligence and Democracy

While synthetic video and audio (“deepfakes”) receive the bulk of popular attention, a wide array of AI applications threaten to undermine inclusive democracy. Microtargeting of racially tailored disinformation, racially targeted cyberattacks, AI-powered surveillance that chills speech, discriminatory voting restrictions, and bias in many AI tools that shape democracy (e.g., voter roll maintenance, mail-in ballot signature verification, chatbots, search engines, voice assistance, content moderation, news aggregation) are just a few. Other AI applications could make democracy more inclusive by lowering the costs of politics, increasing voter engagement and mobilization, and enabling cross-racial deliberation and collaboration. The Artificial Intelligence, Polarization, and Multiracial Democracy initiative partners with the civil rights and tech policy communities to anticipate and mitigate the challenges of AI to racially inclusive democracy.

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The Racial Implications of Alternative Election Methods

Many advocacy groups have pushed alternative election methods like proportional representation, ranked-choice voting, and open primaries without truly centering communities of color. At the same time, an increasing number of current U.S. Supreme Court justices have voted to both scale back key Voting Rights Act protections and tolerate extreme partisan gerrymandering. Future Court decisions could unleash ruthless gerrymanders that significantly diminish representation for communities of color. The Scaling Voting Rights Capacity to Participate in Democracy Reform initiative anticipates and addresses these challenges by collaborating with a diverse group of national voting rights organizations and Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute to examine the implications of various alternative election methods for racially inclusive democracy.





How We Work

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Connecting Experts and Supporting Relevant Research

The Project convenes a racially diverse and interdisciplinary cohort of scholars (e.g., legal scholars, political theorists, political scientists, sociologists, technologists, and communications scholars) to identify key research questions, workshop and refine ongoing research projects with each other (e.g., quantitative research will inform legal scholarship), and learn about real-world challenges and policy developments from community activists, advocates, and policymakers. The Project also distributes resources to support multiracial democracy research and organizes panels on multiracial democracy issues at academic conferences.

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Shaping Policy Debates

The Project leverages its Washington, DC location and diverse pool of experts to inform public debate on multiracial democracy issues and solutions through: 1) convening civil rights organizations on topics like alternative election methods and AI to explore implications for racially-inclusive democracy and to identify open questions that require additional research; 2) research translation and briefings for policymakers, democracy advocates, and philanthropists; 3) state and federal legislative and agency expert testimony, agency comments, and amicus briefs; 4) presentations at conferences and virtual convenings of policymakers, advocacy groups, and philanthropy (e.g., National Association of State Election Directors, National Association of Latino Elected Officials); and 5) expert media commentary.

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Building the Next Generation

The Project also develops the next generation of problem-solvers by: 1) developing an interdisciplinary class and course materials on multiracial democracy for teachers nationwide; 2) presenting at national conferences and virtual convenings of students (e.g., American Constitution Society, the Black Law Students Association); and 3) advising and providing feedback to emerging scholars focused on inclusive democracy (e.g., PhD candidates, candidates on the faculty teaching market, pre-tenure faculty members).




Message from the Director

A multiracial democracy is a democracy with a racially and ethnically diverse population that protects the political liberties of individuals of all groups and respects the coexistence of diverse interests and viewpoints.

As our nation transitions toward becoming a multiracial democracy, the George Washington University Law School—located in Washington, DC—is uniquely situated to bring together key stakeholders to tackle challenges that emerge. The school’s deep connections to government and academic, civil rights, tech, and democracy reform communities—personified through our faculty and alumni—allow for essential convenings, research, solutions, and public education that are possible at few other venues.

While we face significant challenges, we also have an amazing opportunity to build a well-functioning, inclusive, pluralistic democracy that responds to the needs of all. I’m excited that GW Law's Multiracial Democracy Project is positioned to advance key issues that are essential to the future of our nation.

Professor Spencer Overton
The Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law
[email protected]