Activist, voter turnout expert Curtis Gans dies at 77

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 2:28 PM
Activist, voter turnout expert Curtis Gans dies at 77

WASHINGTON (AP) — Curtis Gans, a liberal activist, journalist and recognized expert on voter turnout in the United States, has died. He was 77.

Gans, a northern Virginia resident, died of lung cancer Sunday night at a hospital in Frederick, Maryland, said his only son, Aaron Gans.

Gans was co-founder, with Allard Lowenstein, of the "Dump Johnson" movement, which sought an alternative to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 because of his policies in Vietnam. Johnson withdrew his candidacy, a rarity for a sitting president. Gans went on to work for Eugene McCarthy, who ran on an anti-Vietnam War platform and was the first Democratic candidate to challenge the president.

Gans went on to found the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, which provided data and analysis of voter turnout. The organization later became affiliated with American University in Washington as the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, with Gans as director. He was the author of "Voter Turnout in the United States, 1789-2009," and he also wrote syndicated newspaper columns.

The State Department called on Gans to brief foreign governments about voting patterns ahead of U.S. elections.

Lee Sigal, Gans' brother-in-law and a longtime friend and associate, said Gans' research showed that voter turnout was driven largely by closely contested elections that addressed important issues.

"The common theme throughout his life was: How do we improve the functioning of American democracy?" Sigal said.

Born in New York City, Gans became active in the civil rights movement while at the University of North Carolina, where he edited the student newspaper. In 1960, he participated in the Greensboro sit-ins, which led the Woolworth department store to end its segregationist policies. He also took part in the 1965 civil-rights march in Selma, Alabama.