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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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Featured

Digital Risks to the 2024 Elections: Safeguarding Democracy in the Era of Disinformation

February 16, 2024

Elections in the U.S. and around the world in 2024 face daunting digital risks.A new report from the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights argues that the leading tech-related threat to this year's elections stems not from the creation of content with artificial intelligence but from a more familiar source: the distribution of false, hateful, and violent content via social media platforms.

Featured

Field in Focus: The State of Pro-Democracy Institutional Philanthropy

January 22, 2024

Philanthropic support for promoting a healthy democracy has grown in recent years, marking a period of transformation for the field. Since 2016, an influx of funding, actors, and philanthropic infrastructure has amplified the impact of pro-democracy efforts while infusing the movement with needed dynamism.At the same time, from a funder perspective these developments mean that today's ecosystem is increasingly complex, confusing, and difficult to navigate. Sustaining the benefits of this transformation while avoiding the pitfalls of rapid growth requires a full understanding of funder capacities and needs.Drawing insights from interviews and surveys conducted with 70 institutional funders, this report sheds new light on the state and direction of the democracy funding landscape. It describes:1. Field Magnitude and Growth — estimates of the size, scope, and directionality of democracy-related philanthropic funding.2. Field Focal Areas — insights on major focal areas for funding today, how that has changed over time, and where additional funding may be needed in the future.3. New Actors and Infrastructure — lessons on the experiences of newer funders and the evolving field of funding intermediaries.4. Looking Ahead — outstanding questions for future research and opportunities to strengthen the funding field. 

Featured

Democracy is Indigenous: Five Year Impact Report

January 14, 2024

Over the past five years, the National Urban Indian Family Coalition has been building urban Native civic engagement infrastructure by investing in the capacity of our member organizations of American Indian-led, community-based nonprofit organizations located in the largest Native communities in the country. These investments have allowed these critically important organizations to foster local community capacity to engage in civic and electoral work and build a foundation for independent political and policy influence. The NUIFC and our member organizations recognize that in order to transform and improve the lives of our urban Native communities that we must become dedicated to increasing civic participation and work towards policies that level the playing field, provide equitable redistribution of resources and recognize that we all need a government that works for all citizens.In 2018, NUIFC and its members spearheaded a groundbreaking initiative to mobilize the American Indian and Alaska Native populations residing off-reservation. These populations represent over 70% of the total AI/AN population and are usually overlooked by conventional voter turnout campaigns. In the last five years, this initiative has empowered these Native communities to have a significant impact on multiple electoral outcomes.We are thrilled to share the five-year Democracy is Indigenous Native Vote Report, which celebrates the impact of NUIFC's Native civic and electoral work. The report showcases the results of our efforts in the last three major elections and Census, explains our ambitious plan behind the creation of our member cohort and its rapid growth, and highlights a few of the organizations that demonstrate the power of these investments.

Featured

Election Budgeting: A Deeper Dive Into the Cost of State Elections

November 9, 2023

This report expands upon aspects of MIT's The Cost of Conducting Elections by looking at budgeting from the state and county budgeting perspective.The report covers how states and local governments choose to fund their elections, the role of private and public grants, and the differences between states and some of their counties. For this report, we parsed through the budgets of eight states, and within each of those states, two counties, for a total of 24 entities.The baseline funding of the elections systems of states and localities, while difficult to uncover and parse through, is available on public government websites or through public records requests filed with the appropriate parties.After a deep dive into the way these states and counties fund their elections, several themes emerged, but even more importantly, several big questions about what is next for the election system in our country.

Connecting Civic Education and a Healthy Democracy

March 18, 2024

Connecting Civic Education and a Healthy Democracy highlights the need for state-level policies that expand and improve K–12 civic learning. The report calls for greater investment in civics and features examples of how coalition building has been used to advance more robust policies in a growing number of states.

The Shortlist: Seven Ways Platforms Can Prepare for the U.S. 2024 Election

March 12, 2024

In 2024, the "year of elections," the technology platforms that comprise today's online information ecosystem are facing a watershed moment. With the U.S. election season underway and 82 other elections being held around the world this year, platforms' election preparations and guardrails are poised to play a critical role in the production and spread of election information for more than four billion voters.Protect Democracy has produced four recommendations for each of three platform categories, (1) social media platforms, (2) messaging platforms, and (3) generative AI platforms, to inform their preparations to safeguard the information ecosystem surrounding the U.S. general election. These recommendations are not intended to be comprehensive; rather, they are priority interventions which can be adapted to platforms' nuances and implemented with the time remaining before November. Notably, we do not suggest that platforms ban large categories of content or avoid being sites of election information. Nor do we expect that platforms will be able to identify and act upon every piece of election-threatening content created with or published on their surfaces.

Do Registration Reforms Add New Voters or Keep Californians Registered?

March 12, 2024

In the last few years, California's voter registration rate has surged. Two important policy changes—a version of automatic voter registration (AVR) and a change that helps update addresses on file when registrants move across county lines—may explain the surge. We examine how address updates and new registrations have changed in the voter file over the last few years, looking at race/ethnicity and age, and we place California's changes in a national context to better understand the contributing role of automatic voter registration.

Democracy Report 2024: Democracy Winning and Losing at the Ballot

March 10, 2024

The 2024 report shows that autocratization continues to be the dominant trend, as we have reported in previous Democracy Reports. New for this year is a systematic look at more fine-grained regime changes – countries that are experiencing democratic declines despite having recently improved (what we call Bell-turns), and inversely countries that are improving despite having recently been in a period of decline (what we call U-turns). This volatility is often masked when simply taking the difference between countries' present democracy levels and ten years ago, as done in previous Democracy Reports. Yet, countries' democratic volatility is of substantial interest. Not least, examples of countries that have stopped and reversed autocratization are critical for pro-democratic actors to learn from. Likewise, examples of countries where democratization has in short order been reversed are tales of caution in how democratization can fail to take a permanent foothold. We think this new analysis provides a more nuanced depiction of trends of regime change and informs the reader on how both democratization and autocratization can be stopped and reversed.

Nonprofit Power: Building an Inclusive Democracy

March 1, 2024

Nonprofits can be found in every city and local community across the nation. They tackle a wide array of critical issues, from healthcare and education to environmental conservation and disaster relief, bridging gaps unmet by the private sector or government. They are vital to our nation's civic and social fabric as community institutions with a deep well of relationships and long-term roots in the communities they serve. And as this report shows, nonprofits can and do also foster a more inclusive electorate and in turn a healthier democracy for all of us.The law is clear: nonprofits can engage the communities they serve in voting and elections. As long as they remain nonpartisan, they can talk to their staff and communities about the importance of elections, educate voters about the electoral process, communicate election reminders, and more. In fact, 7 in 10 voters say they think it is a good idea for nonprofits to offer voter support services like voter registration, election reminders, and election day transportation. This report documents the effectiveness and broader impact of those nonprofit voter engagement strategies.

Civic Participation

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: 60 Years Later (2024 State of Black America Executive Summary)

February 28, 2024

The National Urban League's annual publication, now in its 48th edition, is the highly anticipated source for thought leaders focusing on racial equality in America. The 2024 State of Black America report examines the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, marking the first significant effort by the U.S. to address the racial caste system. Sixty years later, the publication highlights that the struggle for equality persists, emphasizing the ongoing challenges and progress made in the pursuit of a more just and equitable future.

Unite Against Book Bans Toolkit

February 23, 2024

The American Library Association and UABB partner organizations trust individuals to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We must protect the rights of everyone to access a variety of books – in libraries and elsewhere.To help you amplify and support this campaign, we have prepared the following toolkit for your organization's and your individual use.

Free Speech

Not Invited to the Party Primary: Independent Voters and the Problem with Closed Primaries

February 13, 2024

This report investigates the problems with closed primaries and their impact on independent voters, and it is divided into five sections:First, through an analysis of voter registration data, we clearly define the extent of the problem with closed primaries by highlighting the number of registered voters who are unable to participate in primaries. We also show that this problem has accelerated over time.Second, armed with data from a first-of-its-kind poll of registered independent voters who reside in closed primary states ("Excluded Independents"), we define who is impacted by the problem across demographic lines. We also analyze why voters register as independents and share some voters' responses to the question "Why are you an independent?"Third, through an analysis of the polling data, we examine the beliefs of Excluded Independents to illustrate the perspectives that are shut out of the electoral process because of closed primaries. We find evidencethat challenges predominant beliefs that independents are disengaged from politics, we report on their attitudes towards the current primary system, and we share fresh data on who Excluded Independents are inclined to support in the 2024 presidential general election.Fourth, we review the existing literature surrounding the debate about independent voters' tendency to "lean" to one party or the other, and we find data that challenges the conventional wisdom that independents who lean toward a party are really just "weak partisans."To conclude, we offer a menu of policy solutions — already in use in dozens of states — that would allow independents to participate in all elections, while giving all voters more voice and more choice.

Campaigns and Elections