This collection on American democracy challenges and complements blog posts and opinion pieces that are typical staples of the 24/7 news cycle in the lead up to US elections. You'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions, the role of the media in civil society, and more.

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"VOTE!" by Paul Sableman licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Who Profited from Election Deniers?

January 17, 2023

As election-denying secretary of state candidates spouted rhetoric that eroded people's faith in our free and fair elections, political operatives behind the scenes were raking in the dough.A new Issue One review of state campaign finance filings reveals a slice of which companies and political consultants across the country converted election denialism into profit during the 2022 midterm elections.

Campaigns and Elections

2022 Ranked Choice Voting Year in Review

January 6, 2023

This report provides an overview of ranked choice voting (RCV) in 2022, highlighting RCV election results and adoptions, with special attention to developments in Alaska and Virginia.

Campaigns and Elections

2022 Midterm Elections in Ohio

December 8, 2022

A survey of more than 1,000 adult Ohioans on their views of the recent midterm elections in their state and their attitudes towards the political climate.

Campaigns and Elections

Who Decides Disputed Presidential Elections: Congress or the Vice President?

November 18, 2022

The 2020 elections raised fundamental questions about the resolution of disputes over presidential electors. Challenges to the legitimacy of President Joe Biden's victory arose because of the 12th Amendment's silence to the Constitution, saying in the passive voice that, after the vice president opens the electoral ballots before both houses of Congress, "the votes shall then be counted."We argue that the best reading of the Constitution finds that the vice president has the primary authority to resolve disputes over the legitimacy of electoral votes. While this is a difficult question with several alternative solutions, the constitutional structure and design should provide the answer. The Constitution rejects popular selection of the president by the electorate as a whole, Congress, or the House of Representatives.Instead, the framers created a state-centric process for choosing the president that relies on state legislatures to choose electors. Allowing Congress to reject electors sent by the states on grounds created by Congress alone would undermine the founders' design. Instead, the Constitution leaves the resolution of disputes over competing electoral slates up to the vice president as the least-worst option among the various alternatives. Short of dueling electors, the Electoral College system relies on the states to create a system for choosing electors and settling questions over their legitimacy.This reading of the Constitution has important implications for recent proposals to amend the Electoral Count Act (ECA). These amendments would raise the minimum number of votes required to challenge electoral votes in the House and Senate, and they would set out presumptions in favor of different branches of state government in the certification of electors.These proposals, while perhaps useful in the context of the ECA, do not address its core constitutional defect. Even if Congress adopts these proposals, it has still seized the power to reject electors even if a state has sent a single slate forward for opening and counting in the special joint session under the 12th Amendment. This violates the separation of powers and the founders' design that presidential selection rest on the people acting through the states, rather than Congress.

Campaigns and Elections

Primary Runoff Elections and Decline in Voter Turnout

November 9, 2022

Ten states hold primary runoff elections if no candidate wins a majority of the votes in a major party's primary: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina (30% threshold), and South Dakota (35% threshold).This report studies three decades of primary runoff elections. Based on turnout declines, disparate outcomes for voters of color, and high costs of runoff elections, FairVote recommends ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, as a way to preserve the goals of runoff elections while solving their pervasive issues.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Independent State Legislature Theory Undermines Elections Principles

October 31, 2022

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case with the potential to upend both election administration and the basic principles of how American democracy works. Its ruling will be handed down less than a year before primaries begin in the 2024 election, possibly creating a massive disruption to voting just before a contentious contest.The case, Moore v. Harper, involves state legislative power over congressional redistricting. The petitioners bringing the case posit that Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution,1 commonly referred to as the Elections Clause, endows state legislatures with exclusive power to decide how federal elections are administered within their states. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of this theory, the laws state legislatures pass to regulate federal elections would become immune from the normal checks and balances of state constitutions and state judicial review that apply to all other state lawmaking activities. Legislatures could enact laws inconsistent with their state constitutions, effectively overriding the source of their own legislative power.The novel concept is named the independent state legislature theory (ISL). We believe that ISL—if endorsed by the Supreme Court in maximal form—could not be limited to state legislative control over redistricting. ISL would necessarily extend to all aspects of state regulation of federal elections under the Elections Clause.In the most extreme possibility, local election administrators could be forced to run simultaneous elections—one for federal contests and one for state contests—on different ballots and with different rules. Voter confusion and anger in 2024 and beyond would be certain.This brief focuses on three principles that are essential for U.S. election administration and how the implementation of ISL would upend them:Principle 1: State legislatures cannot move quickly enough to establish statutes, regulations, or guidance for elections in the heat of election cycles when legislatures are out of session.Principle 2: State constitutions, voter-enacted initiatives, and state courts—in addition to state legislatures—have legitimate roles in shaping voting and the administration of elections.Principle 3: The voting experience is smoother and election administration is more efficient when each state has uniform rules and practices for state and federal elections.

Campaigns and Elections

Gender, Generation, and Abortion: Shifting Politics and Perspectives After Roe

October 14, 2022

Three months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the issue of abortion continues to garner widespread public attention. Most Americans are still following news about abortion laws and regulations. In fact, they are paying far more attention to the issue than to the 2022 election itself. Over the summer, Gallup found spontaneous mentions of abortion as the "most important problem" facing the country reaching record highs.But after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, concerns about abortion have become more politically lopsided. Democrats are far more likely to say the issue is a priority for them, and they are paying much closer attention to news about emerging legislation than Republicans are. Nearly half of Democrats say abortion is critically important to them, while fewer than one in three Republicans say the same. Not only that, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion—a notable change from the past.At the same time, it's not clear that abortion will define the 2022 midterm elections. Relatively few Americans—roughly one in three—say abortion is a critical issue. Inflation and crime rank much higher among the public's concerns. It is also not clear that young women, who feel most passionately about the issue, will turn out to vote in greater numbers than in the past. And for most Americans, abortion is still one among many important issues on which they will judge a candidate.Still, the Dobbs decision may have an even larger impact in years to come. It may be a distinctive generational coming-of-age moment for many young women, and it may come to define their politics and worldview going forward. Polls show their attitudes on this and other issues are remarkably different from those of other Americans, including young men.Today, no issue is more important for young women than abortion. It ranks higher than inflation, crime, climate change, immigration, gun policy, education, and jobs and the economy. What's more, young women overwhelmingly say abortion should be legal—including nearly half who say there should be no restrictions on it. Finally, young women are more likely than other Americans to say abortion is a defining issue for their vote.

Campaigns and Elections

Administering the 2022 Midterm Elections: Chronicling the Infrastructure Needs of Local Election Officials

October 3, 2022

Throughout the month of September, 2022 the Election Infrastructure Initiative interviewed local election officials from across the country. The election officials interviewed represent a diverse cross section of election administration experiences and perspectives, regions, sizes of jurisdictions, and political affiliations. In total, the election officials interviewed serve nearly four million registered voters.This report is a reflection of that research, and highlights the diverse and widespread need for investment in election infrastructure across the country.

Campaigns and Elections

The Case for Fusion Voting and a Multiparty Democracy in America: How to Start Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop

September 29, 2022

American democracy is stuck in a hyper-partisan "doom loop" of escalating division and polarization. Fusion balloting is an extremely promising way to break this doom loop because it gives voters the ability to clearly signal: "stop the hyper-partisan fighting and work together." Without the ability to vote for a moderate party, voters can only vote for the Democrat or the Republican, but without any direction. Because of the single-member district system with plurality voting, a moderate party is unlikely to emerge on its own. Only fusion balloting can give that party an opportunity to represent the growing number of homeless voters in the political middle, who can then leverage their power in key elections.

Campaigns and Elections

What We Know About Redistricting and Redistricting Reform

September 19, 2022

This report offers a systematic analysis of redistricting and redistricting commissions, and finds that truly independent redistricting commissions are superior to partisan legislatures across any number of measures. However, there are significant limits to "fair" maps, even with independent commissions. While gerrymandering is undoubtedly a major concern, many of the problems attributed to gerrymandering are actually problems with districting, and more specifically with the use of the single-member district. Therefore, while independent redistricting commissions do perform better than partisan state legislatures, the improvements are typically more marginal than the conventional wisdom would suggest. They fall short of ideal conditions—especially when it comes to the share of districts that are competitive in a general election.

Campaigns and Elections; Government

How Tech and Election Officials can Protect Elections Online

August 24, 2022

Tech companies can be a force for good around elections. Their scale allows them to reach hundreds of millions of Americans, and their agility and resources enable them to adapt to emerging situations in real-time. When working to their full potential, tech companies can connect Americans to their local governments, make the complex and varied processes around voting comprehensible and transparent, and help restore Americans' faith in elections. To achieve all this, tech companies should collaborate with election officials to communicate official information that voters need and to mitigate the harms, such as false information and harassment, that can occur on their respective platforms.

Campaigns and Elections

Abortion Rises in Importance as a Voting Issue, Driven by Democrats

August 23, 2022

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how the public views control of Congress, issues for the upcoming midterm elections and confidence in how the elections will be conducted. For this analysis, we surveyed 7,647 adults, including 5,681 registered voters, from Aug. 1-14, 2022. The survey was primarily conducted on the Center's nationally representative American Trends Panel, with an oversample of Hispanic adults from Ipsos' KnowledgePanel.Respondents on both panels are recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. See the Methodology section for additional details

Campaigns and Elections