Alumni Spotlight: Coryn Grange (MPA 2021)
Advancing democracy and voter engagement is at the heart of Coryn Grange’s (MPA 2021) work. As a current research associate with the Voting Rights Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and a former Parke Fellow with NYU Democracy Project at NYU Wagner, Coryn reflects on her graduate school experience and journey in civil activism.
How did you first get involved with voter engagement and pro-democracy activism?
The 2016 Presidential election furthered my interest in pro-democracy activism. Prior, I briefly volunteered for a state senate campaign, but I was more interested in education equity and policy as I had the most career experience in this field. After the election and during my time at Wagner, I developed a greater interest in voting rights and the undemocratic policies that disenfranchise voters of color and voters with disabilities more than others. However, I really developed a passion for pro-democracy work once I started my Parke Fellowship. Being able to fully immerse myself in the work that the Brennan Center does and speaking to wonderful people there who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that American systems of voting are more equitable allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for democracy work.
Can you tell us about a project or initiative with the Brennan Center that was impactful to you as a Parke Fellow?
The most impactful project I worked on during my fellowship were two articles that discussed the turnout gap between white and non-white voters, and how it has grown since the Shelby County ruling which severely weakened the Voting Rights Act. The research in the articles was used during the testimony by the head of the Democracy program when she testified during a House subcommittee hearing. She was arguing for the importance of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was later renamed and repackaged many times until it was known as the Freedom to Vote Act. Unfortunately, the Senate didn’t pass the act earlier this year, but I still think it was important to highlight how racial inequity is so closely linked to restrictive voting laws. This is a fact that continues to shape all the work I continue to do, as racial justice and representation in American democracy goes hand-in-hand with equal voting rights for all.
Reflecting on your experience at Wagner, what skills and lessons were most useful in your full-time role at the Brennan Center?
The classes that were immediately most helpful for me when beginning my time at the Brennan Center were ones that focused on quantitative analysis. I use R in a lot of my work, so I’m really happy I took R Coding for Public Policy while at Wagner.
What advice would you give to current Wagner students who want to engage with voter advocacy?
First, I will say that the NYU Democracy Project does an amazing job at organizing and promoting pro-democracy initiatives, programs, and opportunities. Staying on the email list is probably the best way for any Wagner student to become involved! Other than that, I think volunteering or working for grassroots organizations and political campaigns for candidates you think are truly committed to progressive voting rights reform is a beneficial way of becoming engaged with voter advocacy. Also, awareness of the consistent claims of voter fraud and attacks by lawmakers against voting rights is salient, as election misinformation is prevalent as ever.