Nathaniel Persily

Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science

Office: Jerome Greene Hall, Room 927
435 W. 116 Street, Box D-2
New York NY 10027
Tel: 212-854-8379

Assistant Info

Name: Rachel Jones
Phone: 212-854-7594

Areas of Interest

  • Voting rights
  • Election law
  • Constitutional law
  • American politics
  • Public opinion


  • B.A. and M.A. in Political Science, Yale
  • J.D., Stanford
  • Ph.D. in Political Science, University of California-Berkeley

Media Contact

Detailed Biography

Nathaniel Persily is the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Political Science and the Director of the Center for Law and Politics at Columbia Law School.

Professor Persily's scholarship focuses on American election law or what is sometimes called the "law of democracy," which addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance, and redistricting. In the last area, his outside activities include service as a court-appointed expert to draw up legislative districting plans for Georgia, Maryland, and New York, and as Special Master for the redistricting of Connecticut's Congressional Districts.

Professor Persily also created, a website that serves as a repository for nonpartisan congressional redistricting plans for all 50 states.  The maps on the site were drawn by students in his course, "Redistricting and Gerrymandering."  The website is the first ever to present a nonpartisan redistricting plan for the entire U.S. House of Representatives.

Prof. Persily has published dozens of articles on the legal regulation of political parties, on issues surrounding the census and redistricting process, on voting rights, and on campaign finance reform. His most notable recent publications concerning votings rights include "Race, Region and Vote Choice in the 2008 Election: Implications for the Future of the Voting Rights Act," 123 Harvard Law Review 1385 (2010); "Fig Leaves and Tea Leaves in the Supreme Court's Recent Election Law Decisions," 2008 Supreme Court Review 89 (2009). "Vote Fraud in the Eye of the Beholder: The Role of Public Opinion in the Challenge to Voter Identification Requirements," 121 Harvard Law Review 1737 (2008); and "The Promise and Pitfalls of the New Voting Rights Act," 117 Yale Law Journal 174 (2007) .

His coedited book, Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy (Oxford Press, 2008), examines the effects of court decisions on American public opinion. The first of its kind, the book gathers together and analyzes all available survey data on issues such as desegregation, criminal rights, abortion, gay rights, federalism, school prayer, and the death penalty. In addition, along with Stephen Ansolabehere, he designed the "Constitutional Attitudes Survey," a national public opinion survey executed in both 2009 and 2010.  The survey (available
here) includes an array of questions concerning attitudes toward the Supreme Court, Constitutional Interpretation, and specific constitutional controversies.  (The data broken down by Tea Party Supporters as reported by NPR are available here.)

Professor Persily received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from Yale in 1992. He earned his J.D. from Stanford in 1998, where he was president of the Stanford Law Review, and received his Ph.D. in political science from U.C. Berkeley in 2002. After spending 2001 as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, he joined the University of Pennsylvania law faculty, becoming a full professor in 2005. He joined the Columbia Law faculty in 2007.