The Virginia 2017 elections: How I learned to stop worrying and love the political process (with apologies to Stanley Kubrick)

Presented by Nelson Morgan   

Thursday, November 30, 2017
4:00 p.m.
ICSI Lecture Hall


This month there were statewide elections in New Jersey and Virginia, ranging from governor to races at the county and city level. Virginia received most of the national attention because of its swing state status, and there, the Democrats made impressive gains. Much of this wave was undoubtedly due to a rejection of Donald Trump, who has historically low approval ratings. But arguably, the work of activist groups also contributed significantly. These groups were not only reacting to Trump, but also to Democratic Party dysfunction in the 2016 election cycle, concluding a decade of inattention to state level elections. 

UpRise Campaigns ( is a spinoff from the ICSI Project UPSET, and was one of the activist organizations working in Virginia this year. UpRise played a significant role in some of the wins there. In April this year, we gave an ICSI presentation on progress in developing our system. In this talk, we will provide an update, including an analysis that compares campaigns we worked closely with versus those that had less of a connection to UpRise. We'll start with a quick review of our approach, which focuses on local, offline activities that are aided by a platform we've built to encourage volunteer action. Aside from being quite effective, the approach is also financially efficient, being designed to reduce the need for big money in order to run good campaigns. 

Speaker bio:

Morgan is an Emeritus Professor in residence in EECS on campus, and the former director of ICSI. He received his Berkeley PhD too many years ago to admit here. After decades of work on machine learning for signals from speech and neural masses, he decided to try something really hard, and change how democracy works in this country. Wish him luck.