Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
Spencer is a trained political scientist and a lawyer. His research emphasizes the importance of using empirical evidence to judge campaign finance, voting rights, and election administration cases in the courts. His writing specifically aims to demystify statistics and to show how basic concepts of research design can improve the development of election law rules and the way they are judged.
Spencer has worked as an expert witness in voting rights and campaign finance cases, worked as a law clerk at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco, and served as an election monitor in Thailand for the Asian Network for Free Elections. He also worked as a researcher for the Pew Center on the States’ Military and Overseas Voting Reform Project.
Finds that speech-chilling effects of disclosure requirements are negligible, and that, on average, less than one donor per candidate is likely to stop contributing with the visibility of campaign contribution increases.
Lays out a path for the courts, in partnership with the Department of Justice, to reform Section 2 of the VRA so that it fills much of the gap by the Supreme Court's evisceration of Section 5, presuming Congress does not reinstate a preclearance coverage formula. Argues that by adopting evidentiary presumptions whose application in any given case would be determined using national survey data and a common statistical model, the courts could greatly reduce the cost and uncertainty of Section 2 litigation.
Proposes a new, legally defensible approach to coverage base on between-sate differences in the proportion of voting age citizens who subscribe to negative stereotypes about racial minorities and vote accordingly.
Explores the impact of Citizens United on political spending, and finds that while independent expenditures increased across all states afterwards, the increase was more than twice as large in states whose bans on corporation and union spending were invalidated by the Supreme Court's decision.