Ari Berman to speak at WKU School of Journalism

Katlyn Milligan

Ed. note: In the April 5 issue of the Herald, the teaser on the front page stated that Berman was speaking on Tuesday night. He is actually speaking Thursday night. The Herald regrets the error.

Ari Berman, political author and senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine, will speak about voter disenfranchisement, the presidential election and his book “Give Us The Ballot” on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Mass Media and Technology Hall Auditorium.

Frequently advocating for estranged voters throughout the country, Berman serves as a political commentator for MSNBC, NPR, PBS and C-Span. His stories have also been published in The New York Times, Politico, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and The Guardian.

Berman was invited by WKU’s Power, Privilege and Democracy class, which studies themes presented in his book as part of the course curriculum.

“Our class deals with the systemic governance of voting, who actually votes and their reasons for voting,” Louisville senior Marcus Stubbs said.

The class is offered as part of the Fleischaker-Greene Scholars Program, which pairs the School of Journalism and Broadcasting with another school at WKU. This year, the program combined political science with journalism. The course is taught by political science department head Saundra Ardrey and assistant professor of journalism Amanda J. Crawford.

Students in the course have explored numerous factors related to voting: felon disenfranchisement, the makeup of the active electorate, voting efforts and solutions used throughout the world, campaign finance and origins of the Voting Rights Act.

Student Government Association President Jay Todd Richey said his primary focus in the class is felon disenfranchisement.

“Kentucky is in a very small minority of states that does not have a process for felons to regain their right to vote, even if they have completed parole and probation,” Richey said. “Ari’s book discusses this reality across the country and how these laws disproportionately affect people of color.”

Hope Bradford, senior broadcast news major from Elsmere, said her group is focusing on who votes and what motivates people to go to the polls. Based on interviews the group has conducted, they found that one’s perception of the voting process impacts participation more than any other factor.

“People who do vote really feel like their voice matters,” Bradford said. “Many people who don’t vote have a lack of faith in the system and feel their vote doesn’t matter.”

Bradford said this is the most she’s ever been involved in politics.

“I never liked it before now, but I’ve learned that even if you don’t like politics, it’s important to know what’s going on in the world around you,” she said.

Ardrey also stressed the value of political awareness.

“It’s important for people to know their rights. If you’re not ever vigilant, your rights can be taken away without your knowledge,” Ardrey said.

During Berman’s lecture, he will also discuss the U.S. Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder and how the ruling of this case in 2013 might affect voters in the upcoming election. The Supreme Court declared Section 4(b) and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional in this case.

“It’s a very important and timely discussion for us all to be engaged in at this time,” Crawford said.

The lecture is open to the public and is presented by the Fleischaker-Greene Scholars Program and the School of Journalism and Broadcasting; it is co-sponsored by the Potter College of Arts and Letters, the history department and the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility.