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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In Defense of the Movement: Policing, Criminalization, and Surveillance of Protesters of State Violence

January 25, 2023

The Communities Transforming Policing Fund, Center for Protest Law and Litigation, CS Fund, Piper Fund, and Funders for Justice are calling on our peer philanthropic organizations to partner with us in defense of the movement. The movement to end state violence is unique, but deeply connected to all movements for equality and justice. Every right fought for and won in the United States has come through mass protests and mobilization. Every right taken away and criminalized is enforced by police and often with the use of surveillance, legal targeting, and violence. To reinforce our Democracy and to be in alignment with movements for justice and equality, philanthropy must commit to the long-term legal, safety, and security support of protesters.

REV UP Voting Issues Guide: A Tool for Voters and Candidates to Understand Key Issues Impacting People with Disabilities

November 8, 2022

All issues are disability issues! As people with disabilities, we are impacted by policies and decisions about healthcare, government budgets, policing, employment, housing, and so much more. In this guide, we will talk about some of the issues that are important to people with disabilities.These issues have everything to do with why we vote. Our votes help decide the people and policies that shape our lives.It is also important to know that, as a diverse disabled community, different issues will impact each of us differently and our policy priorities will vary. Each of us votes for many reasons. This guide talks about some of these important issues and how they impact people with disabilities.

Constructive Dialogue and Elections: An Educator Guide to Engaging Students

November 1, 2022

This guide provides high school educators with strategies and activities to teach and talk about elections through a constructive dialogue framework. Before the new wave of political and cultural divides, elections once presented fun and engaging learning opportunities for educators and students alike. We developed this resource to support educators and, hopefully, reduce concerns about discussing topics that can often present strong and differing opinions.The tips, practices, and supplemental resources in this guide will allow students to practice skills that support life-long learning, and think critically about themselves, others, and their place within our U.S. democracy.

A Guide to Protecting Newsrooms and Journalists Against Online Violence

September 27, 2022

Online violence poses a constant threat to journalists, resulting in serious implications for press freedom, including self-censorship. This abuse disproportionately affects women and diverse journalists who are often reluctant to speak out for fear of jeopardizing their careers.The IWMF is dedicated to promoting a culture of change in newsrooms when it comes to tackling online violence. This guide details policies and best practices newsrooms can implement to better protect staff members who are targeted simply for doing their jobs.The guide also includes case studies from six months of work with a wide range of newsrooms – from small specialized outlets covering health in South Africa to established independent newsrooms in the United States.


Youth Mandate – The School Board Elections Toolkit: How young people can build power through school board elections for 501(c)(3) Organizations

July 12, 2022

In the era of COVID-19 and following the 2020 wave of nationwide uprisings contesting white supremacy, United States politics have grown increasingly polarized at every level of government. Communities across the country are waging battles along partisan and ideological lines, from debates over public health measures, such as mask-wearing and vaccines, to whether to teach young people the truth about this country's legacy of enduring systemic racism or "critical race theory" and the need for police free schools. While there are limited opportunities for engagement on these issues at the national level, many community members have sought opportunities to engage in local politics. As a result, school boards – the most local and easily accessible form of government – have become sites of intense political and cultural debate.Indeed, the country has seen a recent flurry of engagement in school board races and increased scrutiny over election outcomes. A recent analysis by Ballotpedia identified at least 84 attempted school board recalls against 215 board members in 2021 – a significant increase from any other year since at least 2009. However, while school board activity has intensified since 2020, local activism in school board politics is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1950s, school board politics have proven meaningful to Black and Brown communities as they organize to dismantle white supremacy and fight for education justice in their communities.At this moment, with heightened levels of community engagement in school boards across the country, there are viable opportunities for young people, parents, and community members to participate in this critical site of local power and uplift their issues through the electoral process. The communities already building their participation in school board advocacy are demanding that school board members address how Black and Brown young people face harm in schools (including the racist and punitive school discipline policies and the presence of police and security in schools). They are calling on school board members to align with their bold vision for a liberatory education system based on inclusion, equity, and racial justice principles.

Civic Participation

Changing Power Dynamics among Researchers, Local Governments, and Community Members: A Community Engagement and Racial Equity Guidebook

June 22, 2022

Increasingly, local governments seek to partner with research institutions to understand and undo their legacy of racist policymaking and other aspects of structural racism. This legacy includes historical and current policies, programs, and institutional practices that have facilitated white families' social and economic upward mobility and well-being while creating systemic barriers to the mobility and well-being of families of color.This toolkit highlights community-based approaches that can catalyze equitable public policy, programs, and investments by centering a community's expertise. Our aim is to equip local government agencies and their research partners with the tools needed to transform practices, structures, and systems by joining the highly collaborative processes of racial equity and community engagement. The toolkit is designed for local governments but also for researchers and policy experts who partner with local governments.

Civic Participation; Government

How Citizen Organizations Can Monitor Abuse of States Resources in Elections

March 15, 2022

Political corruption and the abuse of state resources can undermine the core principles of electoral integrity, subverting equal electoral competition and the will of voters. Through systematic monitoring of the abuse of state resources, citizen monitors can promote accountability for such abuses and seek to prevent them altogether. This guide provides a framework for citizen election observers and civil society organizations to make strategic decisions about how to monitor the abuse of state resources and its impact on electoral integrity. The guide provides a detailed overview of the abuse of institutional, coercive, regulatory and budgetary resources in elections, with additional information on monitoring the abuse of media and legislative resources. It reviews various methodologies – including direct observation, key informant interviews, analysis of official data, in-depth investigation, verified citizen reports, and monitoring of traditional and social media – and discusses which are best suited to monitor different types of abuses, as well as strategies to develop communications plans. The guide also highlights successful and varied election monitoring strategies used to document abuse of state resources around the world.

Democracies Thrive When Cities Vote: Playbook for Nonpartisan Voter Engagement

March 1, 2022

The right to vote is a critical part of American democracy. Protecting that right is more important now than ever, as hundreds of bills threaten to make voting more difficult for residents in dozens of states across the country. Democracy is not fully realized when lawmakers impose barriers that result in disenfranchisement and prevent residents from having critical influence on issues such as schools, parks, housing, police and transportation. But city leaders can – and already are – leading the way to protect the democratic rights of their residents.  This playbook for nonpartisan voter engagement provides local leaders with specific recommendations on actions they can take to move their communities toward 100% democratic participation. It covers three key areas – voter education, voter engagement and voter access – in which residents, particularly those from marginalized communities, have historically faced barriers to voting.  Democratic participation has historically been viewed as a national challenge, but cities, towns and villages have the unique opportunity to be their residents' strongest advocates in increasing civic participation. Download the guide to learn more about how your city can take action to address critical voting issues.

Civic Participation

Strengthening Local Government Against Bigoted and Anti-Democracy Movements: Recommendations for Civic Leaders

January 5, 2022

While bigoted and anti-democracy groups have long had a presence in communities across the country, their willingness to initiate violence and target local governments has grown over the last several years. All over the country, authoritarian groups have used intimidation, misinformation, white nationalist appeals, and outright violence to attack or undermine our democratic institutions and shared values of an inclusive, multiracial democracy.Local governments are on the front lines facing attacks on democracy, and they are therefore one of the most important places to strengthen inclusive democracy and counter bigoted political violence. This resource is designed to provide a starting point for local government officials who are interested in taking the first step to counter groups working to undermine democracy, as well as for those working to take their existing efforts to the next level. Every jurisdiction is different, and these recommendations are intended to provide ideas, examples, and inspiration for local officials to decide what would work best in their own communities.Local leaders have the power to confront hate and bigotry. Many have shown bravery and commitment in working to counter these dangerous forces in their communities. At Western States Center, we hope these recommendations provide one more tool to support these critical efforts.

Civic Participation

We Matter: A Guide for Community Organizations on Redistricting Engagement

August 5, 2021

The purpose of this guide is to assist the staff and leaders of community organizations—especially those that organize Black, immigrant, and communities of color—in understanding the importance of drawing fair election maps, called the "redistricting" process. This information should be used by organizations to empower community members, who may not understand how to participate in the mapping process, with the information they need to plug into and shape this critical process for their communities.

Civic Participation

Voter Engagement Toolkit for Community Foundations

April 2, 2018

The new foundation toolkit lifts up concrete ideas and examples for community and public foundations to encourage voter engagement among their grantees and networks. Strategies range from communications, resource sharing, and nonprofit trainings to integration into programs and grantmaking or donor and grantee education.

Campaigns and Elections

Voter Engagement Toolkit for Private Foundations

April 2, 2018

This guide lifts up concrete ideas and examples for how private foundations can encourage voter engagement among their grantees and networks. Private foundations, like public foundations, may support a range of voter engagement activities as long as it's on a nonpartisan basis. The two important differences are funding voter registration drives or ballot measures and are explained in the nonpartisan section.

Campaigns and Elections