States United Welcomes New Staff with Expertise in Election Protection, Political Violence Prevention, and Accountability Efforts￼
The team expansion comes as States United ramps up efforts to support state and local officials and law enforcement leaders in key states as attacks on our free and fair elections continue heading into the 2022 midterm cycle.
Washington, D.C. — The States United Democracy Center and States United Action today announced new hires from around the country with expertise in election protection, political violence prevention, and accountability efforts. The growing team brings together strong backgrounds in federal, state, and local government to the organization. The team expansion comes as States United ramps up efforts to support state and local officials and law enforcement leaders in key states as attacks on our free and fair elections continue heading into the 2022 midterm cycle.
States United’s programs, legal, and state engagement teams are led by:
- Ranjana Natarajan, Senior Vice President, ProgramsPrior to joining States United, Ranjana Natarajan served as a Clinical Professor and directed the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Earlier in her career, Ranjana directed the law school’s National Security Clinic, worked as an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, and held a fellowship with the Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law. She began her career as an attorney and Kirkland and Ellis Fellow with South Brooklyn Legal Services.
- Christine P. Sun, Senior Vice President, LegalChristine P. Sun previously served as Special Assistant to former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as Legal and Policy Director for the ACLU of Northern California, and as Deputy Legal Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Christine’s work has ranged from economic justice to immigrants’ rights to LGBTQ+ rights. After graduation from law school, Christine clerked for Judge Robert L. Carter on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and worked in private practice for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York and Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco.
- LaVita Tuff, Senior Vice President, State EngagementLaVita Tuff is an attorney who, prior to joining States United, served as the Policy Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta—the first and only non-profit legal advocacy organization in Georgia and the Southeast committed to protecting the civil and human rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. She has also worked with organizations such as Code for America and the Ford Foundation to develop data-driven policies in criminal justice, voting rights, and economic empowerment, and as a Policy Advisor on innovation projects for mid-size cities during their partnerships with the Rockefeller Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Under Christine P. Sun’s leadership, the growing legal team includes former prosecutors, experts in election law and political violence prevention, and lawyers with deep experience in federal, state, and local government. The full legal team includes Marjan Ata, Project Assistant; Christine Bass, Democracy Fellow; Victoria Bassetti, Senior Advisor; Robert Cotter, Counsel; Bo Dul, Senior Counsel; Marina Eisner, Counsel; Dax Goldstein, Senior Counsel; Bettina Lee, Project Assistant; Colin McDonell, Counsel; Pratiksha Patel, Paralegal; Mai Ratakonda, Legal Department Manager; Katie Reisner, Senior Counsel; and Aaron Scherzer, Senior Counsel. Bios for each individual are available below.
“This is a powerhouse team that is ready to provide the resources and tools needed to safeguard our elections and support the trusted officials who run them,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center and States United Action. “As we continue to grow our team, both the legal and state engagement work are critical to protecting free and fair elections, preventing political violence, and holding accountable those who seek to undermine our democracy.”
The States United Democracy Center provides pro-bono legal services to state and local officials across the country. This legal work includes litigation, analysis, and other legal action to defend nonpartisan election processes, protect private voter information, promote fair maps, and seek accountability for the January 6 insurrection and the dangerous lies about elections.
More details on States United’s leadership team and bipartisan advisory board are available here.
About the States United Democracy Center
The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit statesuniteddemocracy.org.
About States United Action
States United Action is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy. States United Action advocates for policies that protect election integrity, hold democracy violators accountable, and prevent political violence that threatens to undermine the will of the American people, and amplifies the voices of state leaders and law enforcement leaders who share these values.
States United Legal Team
Before joining States United, Marjan Ata worked to resettle Afghan refugees and worked as a Policy Fellow at Princeton’s School for Public and International Affairs.
Christine Bass is States United’s first-ever Democracy Fellow. She previously worked as a white-collar and commercial litigator at a large law firm in Chicago and as a voter protection attorney on the Biden for President and Mark Kelly for Senate campaigns.
Victoria Bassetti is an election law expert and experienced attorney who, before joining States United, was a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. She is the author of Electoral Dysfunction, a contributing author to This Is What Democracy Looked Like, and the forthcoming Overcoming Trumpery. Her writings have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, POLITICO, USA Today, Washington Monthly, and Harper’s Magazine. She is also the co-host of Yahoo News’ top news podcast, “Skullduggery.” She previously worked on Capitol Hill as Chief Counsel to Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and for Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, among other positions.
Robert Cotter is an attorney with experience as a Policy Counsel at The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Previously, he was a Nancy Hale Fellow at the think tank Third Way.
Prior to joining States United, Sambo (Bo) Dul served as State Elections Director, General Counsel, and Senior Election Policy Advisor to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Before that, she was a Partner in the Political Law Group at Perkins Coie LLP, where she focused on election and voting rights litigation, international anti-corruption compliance and investigations, and immigrant and refugee rights matters. After law and graduate school, she practiced law at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York and clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Marina Eisner is an experienced litigator who previously worked at a boutique litigation law firm and at a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, where she represented corporate clients and maintained an active pro bono practice. Marina has also served as a law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii and at the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Dax Goldstein is an experienced attorney with a deep background in state, city, and county government on elections and affirmative litigation, including providing legal advice to election officials on every aspect of election administration through several election cycles. Before entering public service, they practiced at Covington & Burling and clerked for Hon. Myron H. Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama.
Before joining States United, Bettina Lee worked as an intern at BallotReady.
Colin McDonell is an attorney with experience in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, where he prosecuted federal crimes in the special victims section and represented the United States in criminal and civil cases on appeal. He also clerked for Judge Richard Clifton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, clerked for Judge Andrew Guilford of the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, worked at a major law firm, and was a legislative fellow in the California State Assembly.
Pratiksha Patel joined States United with five years of experience as a Litigation Paralegal and as a Program Administrator. She supports States United’s attorneys in election law and voting rights issues.
Legal Department Manager
Before joining States United, Mai Ratakonda served as a Litigator at Planned Parenthood, challenging laws across the country that attempt to restrict patients’ access to comprehensive reproductive health care. These include several pre-viability bans on abortion, Texas’s attempt to terminate Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, Tennessee’s mandatory waiting period requirement, and many, many abortion restrictions in Arkansas.
Katie Reisner leads States United’s work on countering political violence. She previously served as Senior Policy Advisor and Deputy General Counsel in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Legislative Counsel to Senator Kamala Harris, and Counselor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security as a presidential appointee in the Obama Administration. Katie also served as the first Policy Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). Before joining IRAP, she clerked for Judge Michael Daly Hawkins on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and served as a Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. She serves on the board of Libraries Without Borders and is a member of the Truman National Security Project and the Pacific Council on International Policy.
Prior to joining States United, Aaron Scherzer was the Chief of Strategic Initiatives and Enforcement at the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, where he led the Division’s proactive initiatives. He also served as a Senior Associate in the Supreme Court and Appellate Group at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in New York, where he helped to lead large pro bono teams litigating immigration and criminal matters. Aaron was also a Cochran Fellow at the civil rights firm Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, litigating civil suits on behalf of individuals who were wrongfully convicted. Aaron clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Stephen Reinhardt on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Jed Rakoff in the Southern District of New York.