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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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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.

Growing Voters in Rural Communities: Supporting Youth, Creating Opportunity, and Strengthening Democracy

January 9, 2024

Starting in the spring of 2023, CIRCLE and Rural Youth Catalyst kicked off a nonpartisan learning community with anchor organizations from a diversity of rural places that provide support to young people. The goals of the learning community were to learn from one another about experiences working with youth in rural communities, wrestle with the systemic challenges in rural communities and elections, and to co-create a vision for efforts to increase civic participation, including voting, across diverse rural communities in the United States.This brief, produced in partnership with the Rural Youth Catalyst Project, is informed largely by the Learning Community's insights and reflections. It outlines our collective findings and offers ideas for rural organizations to begin to center youth civic engagement as an integral part of their work.

Threats to American Democracy Ahead of an Unprecedented Presidential Election: Findings from the 2023 American Values Survey

October 25, 2023

In this divided era of American politics, the nation turns its eyes toward an unprecedented presidential election, with two of the oldest leading candidates in history — one of whom is facing federal and state indictments related to efforts to overturn the previous election. The 14th Annual American Values survey, conducted by PRRI in partnership with the Brookings Institution, examines Americans' attitudes about the leading candidates for president, potential support for third-party candidates, and the issues that define these partisan and cultural fault lines. The survey illuminates Americans' concerns about the overall direction of the country, the state of the economy and inflation, public education, social connectedness, and the broader health of our democracy. Additionally, the survey highlights attitudes about abortion, gender and LGBTQ issues, immigration, foreign policy, Christian nationalism, and support for QAnon, among other issues.

How to Make Early Voting More Accessible in New York

August 10, 2023

This report examines early voting poll site accessibility in New York State during the 2022 election cycle, three years after the state enacted its early voting program. Data from in-person poll site accessibility surveys conducted by Disability Rights New York (DRNY) — the state's P&A system and coauthor of this report — and an online survey of early voters' experiences reveals that at least one early voting location in every surveyed county violated state and federal accessibility standards. Of the 179 early voting poll sites across the 57 surveyed counties — every county outside New York City — 169 (94 percent) were not fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

Challenges in Moving Toward a More Inclusive Democracy: Findings from the 2022 American Values Survey

October 27, 2022

Approximately three-quarters of Americans agree that the country is heading in the wrong direction, but there is considerable division over whether the country needs to move backward — toward an idealized, homogeneous past — or forward, toward a more diverse future. Though most Americans favor moving forward, a sizable minority yearn for a country reminiscent of the 1950s, embrace the idea that God created America to be a new promised land for European Christians, view newcomers as a threat to American culture, and believe that society has become too soft and feminine. This minority is composed primarily of self-identified Republicans, white evangelical Protestants, and white Americans without a college degree. The majority of Americans, however, especially younger Americans, the religiously unaffiliated, and Democrats, are more likely to embrace a competing vision for the future of America that is more inclusive.

Information Gaps and Misinformation in the 2022 Elections

August 2, 2022

The problem of election misinformation is vast. Part of the problem occurs when there is high demand for information about a topic, but the supply of accurate and reliable information is inadequate to meet that demand. The resulting information gap creates opportunities for misinformation to emerge and spread.One major election information gap developed in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic drove many states to expand access to voting by mail. Inadequate public knowledge about the process left room for disinformation mongers to spread false claims that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud. Election officials could not fill information gaps with accurate information in time. As is now well known, no less than former President Trump promoted these false claims, among others, to deny the 2020 presidential election results and provoke the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.In 2022, false narratives about a stolen 2020 election persist, even as an unprecedented spate of restrictive voting law changes across the country has created fresh information gaps and, thus, fresh opportunities for misinformation. Since 2020, at least 18 states have shrunk voting access, often in ways that dramatically alter procedures voters might remember from the past. Meanwhile, lies and vitriol about the 2020 election have affected perceptions of election administration in ways that complicate work to defend against misinformation.This paper identifies some of the most significant information gaps around elections in 2022 and new developments in elections oversight that will make it harder to guard against misinformation. Ultimately, it recommends strategies that election officials, journalists, social media companies, civic groups, and individuals can and should use to prevent misinformation from filling gaps in public knowledge. Lessons from other subjects, such as Covid-19 vaccine ingredients and technologies, show how timely responses and proactive "prebunking" with accurate information help to mitigate misinformation.

Campaigns and Elections; Media

The Politics of Judicial Elections, 2019-20

January 25, 2022

In 2019–20, state Supreme Court elections attracted more money — including more spending by special interests — than any judicial election cycle in history, posing a serious threat to the appearance and reality of justice across the country.Thirty-eight states use elections to choose the justices who sit on their highest courts, which typically have the final word in interpreting state law. Over the past two decades, the Brennan Center has tracked and documented more than $500 million in spending in these races.This unparalleled spending speaks to the power and influence of state supreme courts, which often fly below the public's radar. The current political moment only heightens the stakes. In 2020 alone, state supreme courts ruled on everything from ballot access and challenges to election results to governors' emergency orders concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, state courts are playing a crucial role in the ongoing redistricting cycle, including resolving disputes about racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering and even drawing electoral maps in some states.States have a wide range of tools to mitigate the harms documented in this report, including eliminating Supreme Court elections or limiting justices to a lengthy single term in office, providing judicial candidates with public financing, strengthening disclosure rules, and adopting recusal and ethics reforms. The 2019–20 cycle underscores that the challenges posed by modern supreme court elections are not going away — and that the need for action is urgent.

Government

Competing Visions of America: An Evolving Identity or a Culture Under Attack?

November 1, 2021

This report highlights findings from the 2021 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institue (PRRI). The suvey asked participants of varying political leanings to describe their opionions on subjects ranging from Democracy to race and ethnicity to religion and many other aspects of American society in the 21st century.

Representation for Some: The Discriminatory Nature of Limiting Representation to Adult Citizens

July 29, 2021

Every 10 years, political districts at all levels of government are redrawn to make sure they are equal in population as required by the U.S. Constitution.1 Currently every state apportions representatives and draws congressional and state legislative districts on the basis of a state's total population.2 That is, when districts are drawn, all people living in the state, including children and noncitizens, are counted for the purposes of representation.However, some Republican political operatives and elected officials aim to unsettle this long-standing prac[1]tice by excluding children and noncitizens from the popu[1]lation figures used to draw state legislative districts.3 Rather than count everyone, states would draw districts based only on the adult citizen population.Making such a break with current practice and prece[1]dent would be of dubious legality and would leave states vulnerable to a host of legal challenges. It also would have major practical implications for redistricting. This study looks at what such a change would mean for representa[1]tion and the allocation of political power in the United States by focusing on its impact three demographically distinct states: Texas, Georgia, and Missouri.

Government

The Redistricting Landscape, 2021–22

February 11, 2021

This report looks at the upcoming redistricting cycle through the lens of four factors that will influence outcomes in each state: who controls map drawing; changes in the legal rules governing redistricting over the last decade; pressures from population and demographic shifts over the same period; and the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the 2020 Census. In each state, the confluence of these factors will determine the risk of manipulated maps or whether, conversely, the redistrict[1]ing process will produce maps that reflect what voters want, respond to shifts in public opinion, and protect the rights of communities of color.

Government

Democracy for President: A Guide to How Americans Can Strengthen Democracy During a Divisive Election

October 1, 2020

Elections are divisive by design. They force us to pick winners and losers. This is essential to the health of our democracy—we want and need a competition of ideas and candidates. But when there is so much animosity in politics, as there is today, new risks emerge which can be exploited by actors interested in weakening and dividing America.This report aims to describe how Americans are experiencing this election season. It examines Americans' attitudes, beliefs, and feelings toward the state of democracy, and covers core concerns related to the integrity of the election. The study explores issues of trust and belonging, to provide greater context for why Americans may be expressing particular views towards the integrity of the election.This report also seeks to provide nonpartisan guidance for what Americans can do to strengthen our democracy in the coming weeks and months. A critical aspect of this guidance is on how to talk with friends, family, neighbors, and other Americans – especially those with different political views – about issues we all care about regarding the integrity of the election. Americans are not as divided as we think we are, especially at the local level, and this provides opportunities to talk with each other about how we bolster confidence in and commitment to our democracy.

Voting Rights Under Fire: Philanthropy’s Role in Protecting and Strengthening American Democracy

November 1, 2019

There is a new urgency today for American philanthropies to protect the right to vote for all eligible citizens. The philanthropic community has worked alongside the government to protect these rights for decades, but since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminated key parts of the Voting Rights Act, there has been a dramatic increase across the country in barriers to voting. These new barriers often disproportionately affect low-income voters, rural voters, communities of color, young people, and people with disabilities.American philanthropies now have an opportunity to protect and strengthen U.S. democracy by providing badly needed investments in the country's voting infrastructure, paying attention to these issues beyond election time, and joining with others to support litigation against illegal voting barriers.

Campaigns and Elections