Democracy Optimist Democracy Optimist is a thought-provoking public radio series and podcast that delves deep into the heart of democratic processes, elections, and voting rights to ask a simple but vital question: how do we sustain our democracy? The series is hosted by University of Kentucky Election Law research professor Joshua Douglas, a passionate advocate for civic engagement, and produced by WEKU.
Democracy Optimist

Democracy Optimist

From WEKU

Democracy Optimist is a thought-provoking public radio series and podcast that delves deep into the heart of democratic processes, elections, and voting rights to ask a simple but vital question: how do we sustain our democracy? The series is hosted by University of Kentucky Election Law research professor Joshua Douglas, a passionate advocate for civic engagement, and produced by WEKU.

Most Recent Episodes

E.J. Dionne

Voter turnout in America is usually quite low: about 66 percent of the electorate cast ballots in 2020, which was considered high, but one-third of registered voters didn't vote. Could we adopt compulsory voting, like they have in Australia, Belgium, and several places in South America and Latin America? Our guest: EJ Dionne, Washington Post columnist, Brookings Institution senior fellow in governance studies, and co-author with Miles Rapaport of 100% Democracy, The Case for Universal Voting. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Joe Sonka

What is the role of the journalist concerning American democracy? Our guest: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joe Sonka, whose work with the Louisville Courier-Journal and Kentucky Public Radio has been vital to awareness of the workings of democracy in Kentucky. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Amber McReynolds

Amber McReynolds, vice chair of the United States Postal Service Board of Governors, is our guest in this episode. McReynolds focuses on the postal service's processing of mail-in ballots and is the person who guarantees that millions of ballots are processed correctly. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Jennifer Jackson, Becky Jones, and Laura Weinstein

Officers of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky join Josh to discuss the power of a nonprofit advocacy organization with a storied history to fight for significant changes to how we run our elections. The League has been active in debates on the state's voter ID law, redistricting, and efforts to improve transparency within Kentucky's government. Our guests: Jennifer Jackson, President; Becky Jones, First Vice President; and Laura Weinstein, Voter Services Chair. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Lauren Kunis

Voter ID is one of the biggest hot-button issues in election law today with 38 states now requiring some form of ID to vote. Though there have been many legal challenges to these laws, there's also an effort to ensure voters have the IDs they need. One group, VoteRiders, has been at the forefront of this effort. Host Josh Douglas welcomes Lauren Kunis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of VoteRiders, to learn how VoteRiders educates voters and helps them obtain IDs—which impacts not only their ability to vote but many other aspects of their lives as well. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Nimit Sawhney

Why can't we just vote on the internet? We do our banking online, after all. A few jurisdictions in the United States have used a phone app to conduct their elections, and there's a company called Voatz that is trying to revolutionize our voting system through an app that uses the blockchain. Host Josh Douglas welcomes Voatz co-founder and CEO, Nimit Sawhney. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Desmond Meade's battle for the right to vote

While 4.6 million disenfranchised Americans is a huge number, that's down from closer to 6 million people who could not vote due to a felony conviction in 2016. In this episode, we welcome Desmond Meade, founder of the Florida Rights Restoration Clinic, an effort to re-enfranchise 1.4 million returning citizens in the Sunshine State. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Deb Graner and Claire Sandberg

We talk a lot about felon disenfranchisement, which is the practice of taking away the right to vote from someone who is convicted of a felony. And we talk a lot about rights restoration, or giving the right to vote back. Today, we are honored to speak with Deb Graner who recently regained her voting rights and has advocated for a change to the laws, and Claire Sandberg the law student who helped Garner through the process to have her criminal conviction expunged in Kentucky. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Lawrence Lessig

2020 saw unprecedented attacks on the results of the presidential election, even though there was no evidence to question its results. Could that happen again in 2024? To answer that question, we speak with Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, co-author of the book, How to Steal a Presidential Election. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.

Rick Hasen

If you ask Americans to name the most important rights within the U.S. Constitution, they'll probably say free speech, maybe freedom of religion...and the right to vote. But the U.S. Constitution doesn't actually confer the right to vote, at least explicitly. Professor Rick Hasen of the UCLA Law School, who is one of the nation's pre-eminent election law experts, thinks we need a constitutional amendment to add the right to vote to the Constitution. ** WEKU is working hard to be a leading source for public service, and fact-based journalism. Monthly supporters are the top funding source for this growing nonprofit news organization. Please join others in your community who support WEKU by making your donation.