Jacob Canter ’18

Hometown:  San Francisco, CA
Education: Reed College, 2014
Affiliations: Founder of Election Law@Boalt; Co-founder of the Political and Election Empowerment Project (PEEP); Board Member, Friday Activities

I’d like to think that students who were impacted by the 2016 election and want to do something about it think of ElectionLaw@Boalt (EL@B) as an avenue to take action.

Even though many EL@B members are on the left side of the political spectrum (it is Berkeley, after all) we work hard to ensure that the organization focuses on the general benefits of fair and legitimate election and political laws for the country and its citizens, not for one party or another. One of EL@B’s goals is to show that changes to the structure of our political system can improve many of our country’s political problems, and that politics does not have to divide us – so polarized, so unproductive – but can bring us together.

I decided to complete the UCDC law program this semester (fall 2017) because I wanted to help an organization that is doing substantive work to promote democracy in the United States. The nonprofit I’m working with is called Making Every Vote Count. Our mission is to improve the Presidential selection system in the United States. We work towards this mission by advocating for the passage of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Under the Compact, states pass legislation to allocate their Presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. When enough states to win the Electoral College pass the necessary legislation (that is, 270 electoral votes) all the legislation goes into effect. This functionally will turn the Presidential race into a national popular contest, unlike how it currently is, where more than 4/5 of the states and their citizens are ignored during the general election.

The organization is very small, so I have been involved in just about every facet of the work — from developing state-based strategies, to drafting arguments, to writing legal memos, to creating the website, to participating in major strategic meetings with outside organizations.

The experience has been challenging and educational in a way that is totally different from the classroom. The pace of work; the types of work product; the team environment; the client contact; the legislative advocacy – these are all skills that will be valuable as I develop as a lawyer (and especially as a lawyer that does political-related work).

I thought I knew how important the laws that govern democracy were before the 2016 election, and now I realize how little I knew. There are many problems with elections in the United States that span from high principles like how we conceive of and protect the right to vote in the Constitution, all the way down to how we print and post sample-ballots in local districts. But there are good people – on both sides of the aisle – working hard to resolve these problems. Even the greatest challenges: those severe, intractable issues that seem impossible to handle – we can fix those, too. It takes a long time and a little luck, but no politician and no judge has more power than the people united behind a belief.