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Heather Gerken

Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, Yale Law School, Yale University
Chapter Member: Connecticut SSN

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About Heather

Gerken teaches and writes about election law and constitutional law. Her election law work focuses on how best to get election reform passed. Her constitutional law work emphasizes the importance of local governance to racial minorities, dissenters, and a vibrant democracy. Gerken has served as a Senior Adviser and member of the National Election Protection Team to the Obama campaigns in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012. She drafted a proposal for creating a “Democracy Index” which has been incorporated into three separate bills (sponsored by Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Representative Israel) and adopted by Mayor Bloomberg of New York City. She is Co-Founder and Adviser to the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project at Yale Law School, which has become a national model and helped focus attention on local government work as a source for change. She is a Trustee of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group dedicated to election reform. Finally, Gerken is a member of the Connecticut Elections Performance Task Force; of the State Election Website Assessment project; of the Center on Law and Redistricting’s Board of Supervisors; and of the ABA Redistricting Task Force, charged with recommending best practices for redistricting.


In the News

Heather Gerken quoted on the new law clerk hiring plan by Marcia Coyle, "Kagan Says She'll 'Take Into Account' Whether Judges Follow New Clerk Hiring Plan" The National Law Journal, May 7, 2018.
Heather Gerken quoted on Yale law students by Michael Marciano, "Yale Law Students Take Sessions to Court over Flouted Guidance" Connecticut Law Tribune, May 2, 2018.
Heather Gerken quoted by Chayenne Polimedio and Elena Souris, "Why Federalism is Hard" Vox, February 27, 2018.
Heather Gerken quoted , "Yale Law Professor to Speak at Hamden Interfaith King Service" New Haven Register, January 9, 2018.
Heather Gerken quoted on redistricting by Alvin Chang, "How the Supreme Court Could Limit Gerrymandering, Explained with a Simple Diagram" Vox, October 9, 2017.
Heather Gerken quoted on putting political party before country by Woody Bassett, "Petty Partisanship on Both Sides Threatens All Americans" Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, July 21, 2017.
Interview on the progressive movement Heather Gerken, CommonWealth Magazine, July 11, 2017.
Heather Gerken's research on assuming the post of dean of Yale Law School discussed by John Dillon, "Law School Gets First Woman Dean," Yale Alumni Magazine, May 10, 2017.
Heather Gerken quoted on being named first female dean of Yale Law School by Allie Spensley, "Princeton Alum First Female Dean of Yale Law School" Daily Princetonian, February 26, 2017.
Heather Gerken's research on states' power to resist Trump discussed by Ilya Somin, "Heather Gerken on Trump and Progressive Federalism," The Washington Post, December 14, 2016.
Heather Gerken quoted on advocates of federalism and defenders of expansive national power by Ilya Somin, "A New Detente between Federalists and Nationalists?" The Washington Post, September 20, 2015.
"On Voting Rights, Amendments are Too Hard to Achieve and Enforce," Heather Gerken, Room for Debate, New York Times, November 3, 2014.
"'Bad News Bears' of Elections," Heather Gerken, Congress Blog, The Hill, June 4, 2014.
Heather Gerken quoted on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission by Ashby Jones, "Legal Experts React to Supreme Court's Campaign-Finance Ruling" Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2014.
Heather Gerken's research on the current struggle over the Voting Rights Act discussed by Jeffrey Toobin, "Holder v. Roberts: The Attorney General Makes Voting Rights the Test Case of His Tenure," The New Yorker, February 17, 2014.
Heather Gerken's research on the U.S. election system discussed by Adam Liptak, "Lost Votes, Problem Ballots, Long Waits? Flaws are Widespread, Study Finds," New York Times, February 5, 2013.
"Bigger Issues," Heather Gerken, New Democracy Forum, Boston Review, October 1, 2011.
"No Middle Ground," Heather Gerken, New York Times Online, June 27, 2011.
"Coloring Inside the Lines," Heather Gerken, Slate, November 10, 2010.
"The Real Problem with Citizens United," Heather Gerken, American Prospect Online, January 22, 2010.
"A Silver Lining," Heather Gerken, New York Times Online, January 21, 2010.
"Will History Repeat Itself?," Heather Gerken, Huffington Post, October 29, 2009.
"Four Lawyers Review Sotomayor’s Performance," Heather Gerken, Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2009.
"A False Depiction of Judging," Heather Gerken, New York Times Online, July 15, 2009.
"An Uncertain Fate for the Voting Rights Act," Heather Gerken, American Prospect Online, June 23, 2009.
"Race, Voting Rights, and the Genius of Justice Souter," Heather Gerken, American Prospect Online, May 5, 2009.
"A Common Law Judge," Heather Gerken, New York Times Online, May 4, 2009.
"Our Elections Run Well, Don’t They?," Heather Gerken, Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 30, 2009.
"We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes," Heather Gerken, The American Prospect, March 27, 2009.
"The Case for Keeping Score, Revitalizing Democracy: Special Report," Heather Gerken, The American Prospect, December 12, 2008.
"The Invisible Election," Heather Gerken, Election Law Blog, November 16, 2008.
"Shadow Districting Commissions," Heather Gerken, Balkanization, June 4, 2008.
"Out of the Shadows: Private Redistricting Can Help Overcome Lawmakers’ Partisanship," Heather Gerken, Legal Times (Vol. XXXI, No. 18), May 5, 2008.
"Justice Kennedy’s Emerging Vision of Race," Heather Gerken, Balkanization, September 27, 2007.
"A New Agenda for Election Law Scholarship," Heather Gerken, Balkanization, June 22, 2007.
"New Style of Election Reform Begins to Emerge," Heather Gerken, Roll Call, March 27, 2007.
"How Does Your State Rank on the Democracy Index?," Heather Gerken, Legal Times, January 1, 2007.
"Let’s Shift Gears in Voting-Rights Enforcement," Heather Gerken, Roll Call, December 12, 2005.
"Citizens Must Drive Electoral Reform," Heather Gerken, Roll Call, November 15, 2005.
"For Shame: How to Embarrass States into Election Reform," Heather Gerken, TNR-Online, September 28, 2005.
"Race (Optional)," Heather Gerken, The New Republic, September 15, 2005.
"Next Time, Start with the People," Heather Gerken (with Chris Elmendorf), Balkanization, November 10, 2004.
"Lost in the Political Thicket," Heather Gerken, Legal Affairs, November 1, 2004.
"Make It Easy: The Case for Automatic Registration," Heather Gerken, Democracy, Spring 2013.


"Keynote Address: Lobbying as the New Campaign Finance" Georgia State University Law Review 1155, no. 27 (2011).
Argues that lobbying reform is as important to the health of our democracy as campaign finance reform.
"The Foreword: Federalism All the Way Down" Harvard Law Review 124, no. 4 (2010).
Argues that federalism and localism can be useful for racial minorities and dissenters.
"Getting from Here to There in Redistricting Reform" Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Policy 5, no. 1 (2010).

Explains why redistricting reform is difficult to pass and proposes reform ideas for the future.

The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System is Failing and How to Fix It (Princeton University Press, 2009).
Proposes we rank states and localities based on how well they run elections. Idea has been put into proposed legislation by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Steve Israel.
"Shortcuts to Reform" Minnesota Law Review 93, no. 1582 (2009).
Identifies the best strategies for getting election reform passed.