BY: | DATE: Oct 30, 2020

More than a half-century ago, Ted Sorensen joined forces with Nelson Mandela to build voter education and mobilization capacity in advance of the first democratic elections in South Africa. As Sorensen, then a partner at Paul, Weiss, built financial support for the creation of South Africa Free Election Fund (SAFE), a nonpartisan voter education campaign, he said, “I am not asking you to give to charity. I am asking you to participate in history.” SAFE worked in partnership with local organizations to reach those with the greatest need for information, especially women and rural populations. The Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice continues Ted Sorensen’s legacy through many of its programs, including one focused on strengthening democracy and voter rights. In the run up to the 2020 General Election, the Center has strived to meet the needs of the community and go beyond to engage many whose voices are often excluded from political conversations.

Sorensen Center Fellows participated in a campaign aimed at building the civic power of youth of color, part of an expanding partnership between the Sorensen Center and Breakthrough, a global human rights organization that drives culture change to build a world in which all people live with dignity, equality, and respect. The multimedia campaign, We Count!, is designed to engage youth of color and amplify their ideas and dreams for the future. Through interviews and educational videos, the campaign seeks to increase understanding of voting and its challenges, and encourage those who may be less inclined to participate in the political process to get involved.


Jennifer Acevedo (left) and Mohammed Hossain (right) are Sorensen Center Fellows funded by The Jerome L. Greene Foundation. Support from the Foundation has nearly tripled the annual number of Fellows at the Sorensen Center, expanding impact on communities in New York City.


When asked what the right to vote means to her, Fellow Jennifer Acevedo ‘21 said, “As a woman of color, as a student, as a first generation college student with immigrant parents, I think my vote is an act of rebellion and it’s something that women fought for.” The We Count! campaign includes a National Youth Survey which connects the passions, dreams, questions, and concerns of youth of color with the grassroot organizers and national advocacy organizations that need to hear these voices. Sorensen Center Executive Director Camille Massey ‘95 said, “We’re building community virtually and responding to the needs of our local communities and connected communities nationally and globally. In addition to using their legal skills to benefit clients, Sorensen Center Fellows are using their strong voices and personal stories to advance movements and empower even younger social justice advocates.”


Christina Das (top left), Jerry Goldfeder (top right), and Frank Deale (bottom) talk 2020 General Election.


Two weeks before the election, the Center organized a pop-up “Critical Voices: From Local to Global” discussion moderated by Christina Das ‘20, a Sorensen Center Fellow and active member of the Center’s Voting Rights Initiative. The featured speakers, election law expert Jerry Goldfeder and CUNY Law professor Frank Deale covered pressing questions from the CUNY Law community about the Electoral College count procedure, the impact of litigation, and voter suppression. Fellow Mohammed Hossain ‘22 commented, “I think that most people in this country are feeling the sense of urgency. People have to choose what kind of government and what kind of society they want to live in. And that’s more so the case for this election than it is for most elections in the past.”

Learn more about We Count! and take the National Youth Survey (open to individuals between 16-24 years of age) at

Learn more about the Sorensen Center and stay connected on social media @SorensenCenter.