Photo: Alton Christensen

Heather Gerken

Campaign Finance Reformer

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Gerken specializes in election law and constitutional law. She has published in a variety of journals, including the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, Political Theory and Political Science Quarterly. Her most recent scholarship explores questions of election reform, federalism, diversity and dissent. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic’s “Ideas of the Year” and the Ideas Section of the Boston Globe.

Professor Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit and Justice David Souter of the US Supreme Court. She practiced law for several years, including working at a firm where she defended primarily African-American voting districts against politically partisan efforts to break them up.

She joined the Harvard faculty in September 2000 and was awarded tenure in 2005. In 2006, she joined the Yale faculty. She has won teaching awards at both Yale and Harvard and was recently featured in a book published by Harvard University Press on the nation’s twenty-six “best law teachers.” She was in the “boiler room” as a senior legal adviser to the Obama for America campaign in 2008 and 2012.

Her proposal for creating a “Democracy Index” was incorporated into separate bills by then-Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama and Congressman Israel, and is the subject of her book, The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System is Failing and How to Fix It. In February 2013, the idea was made into a reality by the Pew Foundations, which created the nation’s first Election Performance Index.

Gerken received her J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1994 and an A.B. from Princeton in 1991.