Spencer Overton

Spencer Overton

Spencer Overton

The Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law


Office Phone: (202) 994-9794
Fax: (202) 994-5614
2000 H Street, NW Washington DC 20052

Spencer Overton is the Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University. He is the author of the book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression, the law review article Overcoming Racial Harms to Democracy from Artificial Intelligence, and several other publications on democracy and race. He also directs GW Law's Multiracial Democracy Project, which is currently working on research projects on the implications of artificial intelligence and alternative election systems for truly representative democracy in the United States.

He has testified several times before Congress on policies to stop online disinformation and deepfakes (June 2020, October 2020, March 2023, and November 2023), voter suppression, and the Voting Rights Act. He has also appeared as a frequent commentator on election law issues on MSNBC, NPR, and other media outlets, and is a contributor to the Election Law Blog.

Professor Overton held several senior leadership roles during the Obama campaign, transition, and Administration. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he led over 140 experts as chair of the campaign’s Government Reform Policy committee. On the transition, he chaired the Election Assistance Commission Agency Review Team, served on the Federal Election Commission Agency Review Team, and helped write the Administration’s ethics guidelines while serving in the office of the General Counsel. During the Administration, he was appointed as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, and partnered with other senior officials in leading the Administration’s democracy policy efforts related to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Administration’s response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate spending in federal elections.

Professor Overton’s work on the Jimmy Carter-James Baker Commission laid the groundwork for modern arguments against unnecessary voting restrictions. As a member of the DNC Presidential Nomination Scheduling Commission, he led an effort that resulted in Iowa restoring voting rights to over 80,000 returning citizens. He was also part of a group of commissioners that worked to successfully move more diverse states like South Carolina and Nevada to the beginning of the modern Democratic presidential primary process, which would later have significant implications in selecting the Democratic nominee in 2008 (Barack Obama) and 2020 (Joseph Biden).

From 2014-2023, Professor Overton served as the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies—America’s Black think tank—where he rebuilt the organization and worked closely with other civil rights leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus, and various other federal, state, and local policymakers to increase diversity among top political appointees and to devise and advance racially-equitable policies.

Professor Overton currently serves on the board of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, which is the education and research arm of the nation's oldest and largest civil and human rights coalition - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He has also served on the national boards of the American Constitution Society, the Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets), Common Cause, and Demos, and served as an advisory board member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Professor Overton practiced law at the firm Debevoise & Plimpton, clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith, and graduated with honors from both Hampton University and Harvard Law School.

In the News

"The Ground Is Shifting Under Biden and Trump"

The New York Times quoted Spencer Overton on the heightened racial polarization when it comes to Biden and Trump’s presidential campaign.

"SCOTUS upholds South Carolina redistricting map"

WBUR-FM’s "Here & Now" spoke to Spencer Overton, professor of law, in the segment "SCOTUS upholds South Carolina redistricting map."

"Louisiana's congressional map is legal for now, Supreme Court rules"

WBUR-FM’s "Here & Now" spoke to Spencer Overton about why the Supreme Court ruled that a map that draws a second majority congressional district in Louisiana can be used in 2024.