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Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School where she specializes in election law and constitutional law. She has published numerous articles on these subjects in the Harvard Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, Political Theory, Political Science Quarterly, Roll Call, Legal Affairs, Legal Times, The New Republic, American Prospect Online, and elsewhere. She has served as a commentator on legal controversies for a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, NPR, the Lehrer News Hour, Dan Rather Reports, CNN, MSNBC, the Rachel Maddow Show, and NBC News with Tom Brokaw. She has testified on election law questions before Congress and the Massachusetts state legislature.
Professor Gerken won the teaching awards at Harvard Law School and Yale Law School as well as the Green Bag Award for Exemplary Legal Writing. In 2007 and 2008, she served as a senior adviser to the national election protection team for Obama for America. Before entering the academy, Professor Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit and Justice David Souter. She worked as an associate at Jenner & Block in Washington DC between 1995 and 2000.
Professor Gerken’s proposal that Congress establish a “Democracy Index” – a national ranking system of state election performance – has been incorporated into separate bills by then-Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama, and Congressman Israel. The proposal has also been the subject of a conference sponsored by the Pew Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and AEI-Brookings. Mayor Bloomberg announced that New York City would create the nation’s first Democracy Index. The idea has also been adopted in India and has received the support of a major foundation in the U.S. The proposal is the subject of her book, The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System is Failing and How to Fix It.
Professor Gerken's research centers on questions of applied democratic theory, including the role groups play in a democratic system, the translation of institutional design choices into manageable legal doctrine, and the values associated with minority-dominated institutions. Her most recent scholarship explores questions of election reform, diversity, and dissent.