President of the American Civil Liberties Union Susan Herman entered a room packed with Yale students Wednesday night to discuss civil liberties in the age of President Donald Trump.

During the talk, which was co-hosted by the Yale College Democrats and the Yale Undergraduate Legal Aid Association, Herman addressed the challenges the nation is currently facing in areas ranging from individual liberties to voting rights as a result of legislation passed in the last decade. In a Q&A session following Herman’s address, audience members inquired about the work the ACLU does and brought up topical issues, including the Trump administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program rollback and the recently revised travel ban. Students interviewed by the News after the event expressed excitement about having Herman, a national figure, speak on campus.

After the talk, Herman told the News she was excited to speak to Yale students, who she said represent the “future.”

“They are the troops,” Herman said. “We need all hands on deck.”

The talk kicked off with a short review of ACLU’s history, which was followed by a discussion on the scaling-up of government surveillance following the 9/11 terrorist attack and problems with U.S. voting procedures.

Using a map depicting the distribution of states that voted for Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 and Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Herman explained that the electoral college — which propelled Trump to victory — has its roots in slavery. According to Herman, the system was used as a tool for plantation states such as Virginia to hold sway on a federal level.

“The electoral college looks a little bit like an original sin,” Herman said. “After the Civil War, the electoral college should have gone the same way as the three-fifths law.”

Herman urged the student attendees to lobby their local congressional representatives to thwart Trump’s efforts to rescind DACA. Additionally, Herman emphasized that, contrary to a Washington Street Journal story that ran last month, the ACLU will continue to represent all people with free speech concerns, regardless of political ideology.

Keera Annamaneni ’20, communications director for the Yale College Democrats, said the group invited Herman to campus because of her leadership in the field of law and her valuable insights on the current political climate.

Alex McGrath ’21 said that as a card-carrying member of the ACLU, he was thrilled to attend the talk and was interested to hear about the diversity of issues the ACLU has been involved with.

Anna Gumberg ’21 said the talk was fascinating, adding that she was surprised to learn about the bills currently in work in various state legislatures that would potentially obstruct voting rights.

Herman assumed the position of ACLU president in 2008.

Jingyi Cui |

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    The National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
    Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes, that don’t represent any minority party voters within each state.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes among all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    In 2017, the bill has passed the New Mexico Senate and Oregon House.
    The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    Since 2006, the bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country