Panel description: National and state level voting analysts and experts come together to discuss historical and current voting perspectives, the current state and national legislative landscape, how people with disabilities have traditionally voted, and what the future of the disability vote may look like.  

Panelists: Michelle Bishop, Brad Ashwell, Michelle Kanter Cohen, Doug Kruse, Thomas Hicks, and Amy Keith

Panelist Bios

Michelle Bishop leads a team to support the P&A network on voting rights and voter engagement for people with disabilities. She also works in coalition with the civil rights community in Washington, DC to ensure strong federal policy regarding voting rights and election administration from a voter-centric and intersectional perspective. She earned her MSW in Social and Economic Development from Washington University in St. Louis and BA in Sociology and English Literature from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Michelle loves democracy so much that she registered to vote on her 18th birthday, even though it wasn’t an election year. It is ill-advised to get her started talking about the historical significance of the first peaceful transfer of the US presidency or the intricacies of the Electoral Count Act. Disabled herself, Michelle comes to NDRN with over 15 years experience in the disability vote. 

Brad Ashwell is the Florida State Director for All Voting is Local. He has twenty years of state and federal experience with non-profit advocacy groups working to strengthen democracy and the freedom to vote. Prior to joining All Voting is Local, Ashwell worked on legislative advocacy, research, and grassroots engagement with organizations such as State Voices, Common Cause, Integrity Florida, and the Public Interest Research Group. Brad is a native Floridian, a graduate of Florida State University, and lives in Tallahassee, the state capitol.  

Thomas Hicks was nominated by President Barack H. Obama and confirmed by unanimous consent of the United States Senate on December 16, 2014 to serve on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Mr. Hicks currently serves as Chairman of the EAC and Designated Federal Officer (DFO) of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). Commissioner Hicks has focused his efforts on voter access. Under his leadership, the EAC developed a pocket-sized voter card that serves as a guide on voting rights for voters with disabilities. The card is provided in both Braille and large print. The EAC has worked with advocacy groups and election officials to distribute the card.

In addition, Mr. Hicks has addressed the difficulties overseas voters have when requesting and returning their ballots, such as dealing with foreign IP addresses and issues with timely ballot delivery. He worked with key states to set up a help desk. Now, overseas voters receive an email response directing them to the help desk to obtain their ballots. Mr. Hicks is a frequent speaker at conferences in the United States and overseas on issues such as voter access and cybersecurity.

Prior to his appointment with EAC, Commissioner Hicks served as a senior elections counsel and minority elections counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration, a position he held from 2003 to 2014. In this role, Mr. Hicks was responsible for issues relating to campaign finance, election reform, contested elections and oversight of both the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Federal Election Commission. His primary responsibility was advising and providing guidance to the committee members and caucus on election issues. Mr. Hicks has talked with Americans in every state about their voting experiences. In addition, he has worked with state and local election officials across America to address critical election concerns. Prior to joining the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Hicks served as a senior lobbyist and policy analyst from 2001 to 2003 for Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that empowers citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Mr. Hicks has enjoyed working with state and local election officials, civil rights organizations and all other stakeholders to improve the voting process.

Mr. Hicks served from 1993 to 2001 in the Clinton administration as a special assistant and legislative assistant in the Office of Congressional Relations for the Office of Personnel Management. He served as agency liaison to the United State Congress and the president’s administration on matters regarding federal personnel policies and regulations. Mr. Hicks received his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. in Government from Clark University (Worcester, MA). He also studied at the University of London (London, England) and law at the University of Adelaide (Adelaide, Australia).

Amy Keith joined Common Cause in 2022 as the Program Director for Florida. She leads Common Cause Florida’s work to create open, accountable government that serves the public interest and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process. Amy comes to Common Cause with over 20 years of nonprofit management and coalition-building experience. She spent 18 years working in international humanitarian response for nongovernmental organizations including the International Rescue Committee and the Danish Refugee Council, among others. Working primarily in South Asia and the Middle East, she managed disaster preparedness and recovery programs, built interagency coalitions, and advocated for the rights of refugees and people affected by crisis. Since returning to the U.S., she has been actively engaged in the democracy space in Florida, leading election protection, voting rights outreach and civic education initiatives with the League of Women Voters.She holds a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in Philosophy from Bates College.

Michelle Kanter Cohen serves as Policy Director and Senior Counsel with Fair Elections Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit voting rights organization based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the Center in 2017, Ms. Kanter Cohen spent five years at Project Vote as a litigator and advocate for voting rights, focusing on the areas of voter registration and election administration. Ms. Kanter Cohen earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from Boston College Law School, and a B.A., cum laude, in Political Science from Yale University. In her personal capacity she has also served as a member of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Voting Rights Task Force and is currently a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Election Law.

Doug Kruse has a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. He conducts econometric studies on employee ownership, profit sharing, disability, worker displacement, pensions, and wage differentials. Professor Doug Kruse’s book Profit Sharing: Does It Make A Difference?  won Princeton’s Richard A. Lester prize as the year’s Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations. His recent co-authored books include The Citizen’s Share: Reducing Inequality in the 21st Century (Yale University Press), People with Disabilities: Sidelined or Mainstreamed?  (Cambridge University Press), Shared Capitalism at Work (University of Chicago Press). He has published over 100 scholarly papers, including articles in peer-reviewed journals such Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Economic Journal, Human Resource Management, Monthly Labor Review, Industrial Relations. He has testified four times before Congress on his economic research, and conducted several studies for the U.S. Department of Labor and for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Professor Kruse served as Senior Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers in 2013-2014. He is also a Research Associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge, MA), a Research Fellow at IZA – The Institute for the Study of Labor (Bonn, Germany), an editor of British Journal of Industrial Relations, and was appointed to New Jersey’s State Rehabilitation Council, the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team.

Panel Moderator:

Caitlyn Clibbon is a Public Policy Analyst at Disability Rights Florida. A native Floridian, she received both social work and law degrees from Florida State University. She is a proud civil rights advocate and believes voting is essential to preserving and protecting our rights.