Preparing for the 2024 Presidential Election with LWV’s Chief Counsel

Celina Stewart

Chief Counsel and Senior Director of Advocacy and Litigation, Celina Stewart

Fighting for pro-voter laws is an essential part of defending our democracy. With voter suppression efforts on the rise, lawyers at organizations like the League are working across all 50 states to protect our rights and ensure all voters have equal access to the ballot.

It’s no surprise, then, that election and voting rights were the focus of this year’s Brown Forum for Women in Law Conference hosted by Northeastern University School of Law. This annual event brings women together to discuss major themes in the legal field; this year’s conference was entitled “Women, Media, and the Law: Impacting Elections 2024.”

Our chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation, Celina Stewart, attended and spoke on the conference’s voting rights panel. Moderated by Wendy Weiser from the Brennan Center for Justice, the panel’s speakers ranged from Michigan’s secretary of state to representatives from Protect Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Democratic Practice – United States, Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Watch the Panel

We’ve compiled selections from Stewart’s remarks on mis- and disinformation, voter intimidation, and how we can defend democracy below.

What is one thing that you’re concerned about for the election?

The rise in uncommitted voters, particularly among young people…[and] the misuse of artificial intelligence.

What is one thing that makes you hopeful?

I have seen the resiliency of our country, especially in times of crisis. We saw that for the Civil Rights movement, we saw that for 9/11, we’ve seen that during the pandemic. And so, I have hope that we are going to continue to be resilient.

And there’s this quote… “if you’re living in the past, you’re likely to be depressed. If you’re living in the future, you’re likely to be anxious, and if you’re living in the present, you’re likely to be peaceful.”

And so that’s something that I carry…to try to maintain and stay in the moment, because this moment right now is all we have. And while it will impact the future, what we do now is the most important contribution that we can make.”

What is Your Take on Artificial Intelligence Mis- and Disinformation?

One of the cases that we just filed last month was in New Hampshire. In New Hampshire…there was a call impersonating President Biden that said, “Don’t worry about the election, I’ll be fine, don’t show up on Tuesday. And this was for the primary in January, and this was directed towards thousands of voters, both independent and democratic…

What we do now is the most important contribution that we can make.

Our lawsuit [in this case] is unique in that it’s combining voting rights laws [and] consumer protection laws, and it’s targeting [those who use] those mechanisms for mass disinformation. And so it’s the first lawsuit of its kind — but the reason why we thought it was so important is because of the technology and what AI can do now…

The robocall that was directed towards, I think, 20,000 people, was created for [about] $100 in 5 minutes…that just lets you know the scale we’re dealing with.

What Should People Do When They Encounter Mis- and Disinformation?

When mis- and disinformation comes out, the most important thing is not to spread it…instead, what we do at the League and what we tell our Leagues to do is put out accurate information. Don’t even comment on it, just put out accurate information to combat [it]. We have to create an echo chamber of the right information and make the misinformation and disinformation become a whisper.

 What are Your Thoughts on Voter Intimidation?

In 2022 in Arizona, in Maricopa County…[voters] were met with armed people [at the ballot box]…

We filed a lawsuit. We had to because…it was days before the election, people were actually walking away from the ballot boxes because people were intimidated…

[W]e think about things like this all the time, and we know that this is going to continue to come up, this is a part of a larger playbook, and so it’s so critical that we are all vigilant about recording what we see [and] acknowledging when something doesn’t feel right, especially when you’re voting, because that’s a sacred, Constitutional right.

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