Street view of the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Democracy Decoded: Season 3, Episode 1

All Politics Is Local

Democracy Decoded: Season 3, Episode 1

All Politics Is Local

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Why do local and state elections matter, and how can voters be sure that their voices are being represented in the lawmaking process? We open the third season of Democracy Decoded with an overview of democracy at the state and local level, and how we can ensure that all citizens can have their voices heard.

In this episode Simone talks with Jawharrah Bahar about her experience losing and then regaining her freedom  to vote, and how that inspired her work with the advocacy group Free Hearts. CLC’s senior vice president Paul Smith explains how and why state and local governments are stepping in directly to protect the right to cast a ballot. Simone also speaks with the Arizona State Director for the organization All Voting is Local, Alex Gulotta. Alex talks about the fight for state and local voting policies that protect the freedom to vote of Black, brown, Native American, and other historically disenfranchised communities. 


Read the full transcript


Hosts and Guests:

Simone Leeper litigates a wide range of redistricting-related cases at CLC, challenging gerrymanders and advocating for election systems that guarantee all voters an equal opportunity to influence our democracy. Prior to arriving at CLC, Simone was a law clerk in the office of Senator Ed Markey and at the Library of Congress, Office of General Counsel. She received her J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2019 and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2016.

Jawharrah Bahar is Director of Outreach at Free Hearts, an organization led by formerly incarcerated women that provides support, education, and advocacy in organizing families impacted by incarceration. In her role she has contributed to legislation, spoken at community events, participated in local advocacy campaigns, and raised community awareness through social media videos. Jawharrah is also a licensed esthetician and owner of Lashing Artistry.

Paul Smith is Senior Vice President at Campaign Legal Center. He has four decades of experience litigating a wide range of cases. He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court 21 times and secured numerous victories, including Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark gay rights case. In addition, Paul has argued several voting rights cases at the Supreme Court, including Vieth v. Jubelirer and Gill v. Whitford, involving partisan gerrymandering, LULAC v. Perry, involving the legality of Texas’s mid-decade redrawing of congressional districts and Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, involving the constitutionality of a voter identification law. Paul previously served as a partner in the law firm of Jenner & Block, where he was chair of the firm's Appellate and Supreme Court Practice and co-chair of the firm's Election Law and Redistricting Practice. 

Alex Gulotta is All Voting is Local’s Arizona State Director. He brings more than 30 years of experience as a poverty law advocate and more than 20 years as a nonprofit executive director. Alex practiced as a legal aid lawyer before becoming the executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC). After that, he joined Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) as executive director. Under his tenure, BayLegal significantly increased its impact litigation and policy advocacy through the implementation of an impact support structure designed to enable every advocate in the program to participate in high-end impact advocacy. 



Voting Must Be Accessible

Why the U.S. Needs Equitable Access to In-Person Voting

I’m Unable to Vote Because I Have a Record, But I’m Not Going to Allow My Past to Be Held Against Me

Midterm Ballot Initiatives Strengthening the Freedom to Vote Win Big


About CLC:

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. Learn more about us.


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Democracy Decoded is part of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.