• Sep 21 - 22, 2023

A Convening: Race, Reform, and Multiracial Democracy

  • Harvard Law School
Guinier posing in front of a shelf of books

Agenda | Logistics

The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Social Justice (CHHIRJ) will hold the Race, Reform, and Multiracial Democracy convening. This convening is the launch of the Guinier Project, which will explore the relationship among electoral system reform, racial justice, and democratic representation. The convening will take place at Harvard Law School on September 21 – 22, 2023.

Lani Guinier standing in front of a mapAs a Harvard law professor, Lani Guinier was always ahead of her time. She was a civil rights lawyer with the US Department of Justice and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and she was the first Black woman to be tenured at Harvard Law School. In a series of academic writings almost thirty years ago, Guinier argued that the design of American electoral institutions, specifically that they are constructed as single-member electoral districts determined by a plurality winner, undermines the aims of an increasingly multiracial democracy. Although single-member districts have been the remedy of choice for voting rights violations, Guinier emphasized that single-member districts did not work well for Black voters and other voters of color. Guinier advocated for alternative voting systems that did not present such zero-sum tradeoffs.

This conference will bring together academics, activists, and policymakers interested in exploring the possibilities for reforming our electoral system and the potential impact on electoral systems reform on racial communities and racial representation. Participants will include experts in the fields of law and democracy, race and racial representation, and electoral systems. Topics that will be covered include the history of alternative voting systems, their potential to promote or hinder equity and representation, and ways to ensure that these systems are accessible and inclusive for all.

Our goal is to bring together a diverse set of voices and stakeholder groups—civil rights organizations, grass roots groups, legal academics, and political scientists—to talk about the possibilities for a reform agenda that accounts for racial representation in the twenty-first century. Consistent with that aim, attendees will include those who are ardent supporters of electoral reform as well as those who are deeply skeptical.

CHHIRJ at Harvard Law School aims to be the nation’s premier race and justice research center. CHHIRJ wields the power of law, research, and community to pursue the contemporary frontiers of the civil rights movements by developing, contributing to, and supporting impactful, evidence-based approaches to the race and justice issues of the present.


Guinier Project Sponsors: