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

Enhancing Accessibility in U.S. Elections

July 8, 2021

In 2020, voters with disabilities turned out in force in one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history. According to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 62 percent of disabled voters cast a ballot in the November 2020 election, compared with just about 56 percent of disabled voters who participated in the 2016 presidential election. 2020's high turnout is demonstrative of disabled voters' unwavering resolve to make their voices heard and to fully participate in American democracy. While all voters—regardless of disability status—experienced difficulties in registering to vote and casting ballots last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, disabled voters faced particularly significant challenges. This report examines the barriers disabled voters face when participating in elections and proposes solutions for improving the voting experience and encouraging voter participation.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Unconfirmed: Why Reducing the Number of Senate-confirmed Positions Can Make Government More Effective

August 9, 2021

The federal workforce is composed of about 2 million civil servants who provide continuity across presidential administrations and another 4,000 political appointees who are selected by the president. About 1,200 of these political appointees require Senate approval. Despite presidential interest in filling positions across government to advance political and policy objectives, the number of Senate-confirmed positions, along with the complexity of the appointment process, has resulted in a slowdown of confirmations and an increase in vacancies. This situation limits agency operations and reduces the president's capacity to govern and the Senate's power to hold officials accountable.Using appointments data from the Political Appointee Tracker compiled by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post along with expert analysis, this report highlights key trends in filling Senate-confirmed positions and in the nomination and confirmation process. These trends generate serious barriers to government effectiveness, responsiveness and agility. The Senate, in collaboration with the executive branch, has occasionally taken steps to reduce the number of political appointees and make the confirmation process more efficient. However, the number of Senate-confirmed positions poses a daunting challenge for any president, often leading to vacancies that undermine the execution of responsibilities that Congress has established and the taxpayer's fund.This report offers seven potential approaches to streamline the political appointment process for those positions requiring Senate confirmation and assesses when each of these approaches could be most useful and feasible, setting the stage for a reduction or rescoping of Senate-confirmed positions in favor of longer term, nonconfirmed or career alternatives while preserving the Senate's constitutional role and oversight function.

Government

America’s Hidden Common Ground on Renewing Democracy

July 19, 2021

This Public Agenda/USA TODAY Hidden Common Ground survey, which is also part of Public Agenda's ongoing series of Yankelovich Democracy Monitor surveys, was fielded in May 2021. The research updates and expands on findings from Public Agenda's two previous Yankelovich Democracy Monitor surveys, published in 2019 and 2020. The report concludes with reflections on the findings and implications for moving towards a less divisive, more collaborative, and healthier democracy.

Government

What We Know about Congressional Primaries and Congressional Primary Reform

July 1, 2021

This report offers an analytical overview of recent scholarship on the effects of the primary election on politics and the effects of different primary rules on voters, candidates, and policy moderation. Though many studies have been conducted in recent years, this is the first time that they have been systematically brought together with the express purpose of drawing comprehensive lessons.

It's Complicated: People and Their Democracy in Germany, France, Britain, Poland, and the United States

July 1, 2021

This in-depth study explores how citizens in five countries (Germany, France, Britain, Poland, and the United States) feel about democracy, their frustrations, and their demands, with a particular focus on those with an ambivalent relationship with democracy.

Civic Participation; Government

Which Women Can Run?: The Fundraising Gap in the 2020 Elections’ Competitive Primaries

June 9, 2021

Women ran, donated and voted in record numbers during the 2020 elections, despite a global pandemic and the ensuing recession that has fallen on overt gender and racial lines. Still, intersectional racial and gender fundraising gaps persisted when women, particularly women of color, ran in 2020 primary and general elections. Campaign finance remains a barrier of entry for many demographic groups of women, especially in primary elections. OpenSecrets' new gender and race report, Which Women Can Run? The Fundraising Gap in the 2020 Elections' Competitive Primaries, examines the variables that create barriers early on for women, especially women of color, and the variables that lead these candidates toward successful campaigns. Our goal is to address and document how gender and race impact primaries.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Improving the Voting Experience After 2020

April 6, 2021

A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center's Task Force on Elections that outlines ways to enhance local election administration in light of issues surrounding the 2020 U.S. election. The authors list twelve recommendations on topics ranging from emergency election procedures to ballot return standardization to expanding early voting and more, with the goal of meaningfully improving voters' access to a secure ballot.

Campaigns and Elections

Preliminary Report: Impact of Differential Privacy & the 2020 Census on Latinos, Asian Americans and Redistricting

April 5, 2021

The Constitution requires a census every ten years in order to determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to determining this reapportionment of House seats, Census data are also used for purposes of redistricting, distribution of federal funding, and assisting policy makers, businesses, and other interested stakeholders in assessing and addressing community needs.The Census Bureau has utilized different methods to meet its federal-law statutory mandate to protect respondents' privacy and confidentiality in published statistics. For the 2020 census, the Census Bureau will use a new methodology for this purpose – "differential privacy." Differential privacy is a mathematical method that uses statistical noise, or false information, to alter data so that the link between the data and specific persons or households cannot be ascertained. How the Census Bureau implements differential privacy could negatively affect civil rights enforcement for the next decade, including with respect to redistricting and voting rights.This preliminary report – the first such report from civil rights organizations on this topic – compares the demonstration products (which tested different configurations of differential privacy using 2010 Census data) to published 2010 Census data in an effort to assess the impact of differential privacy on a) total population and racial/ethnic populations and b) redistricting.

From Crisis to Reform: A Call to Strengthen America's Battered Democracy

March 22, 2021

This special report discusses three flaws that threaten to weaken democracy in the United States: the unequal treatment of people of color, the mounting issue of partisan polarization, and the improper influence of money in politics. The report examines how each of these factors threatens democracy in America and outlines recommendations for addressing these weaknesses, including reducing barriers to voting, establishing independent redistricting commissions, and closing loopholes in campaign finance laws. 

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

America’s Electoral Future The Coming Generational Transformation

October 19, 2020

A report building on a previous 2018 report issued by the authors as part of the States of Change project. The 2018 report examined various future presidential election scenarios (from 2020 through 2036) that could occur due to demographic changes at the state and national level over the next several decades. This revised 2020 report updates the scenarios with new demographic projections based on the latest census data, explicitly incorporates gender into the projections and scenarios for the first time, and examines the likely evolution of generational cohorts over the next several decades. 

Campaigns and Elections

American Views 2020: Trust, Media and Democracy

August 1, 2020

This report is based on data collected between Nov. 8, 2019, and Feb. 16, 2020, just before the novel coronavirus became a global pandemic and the burgeoning movement for racial justice swept the nation. The low levels of public trust in the nation's polarized media environment have left open the possibility for dangerous false narratives to take root in all segments of society during these emergent crises. At a time when factual, trustworthy information is especially critical to public health and the future of our democracy, the striking trends documented in these pages are cause for concern. American Views offers new insights into how the public is responding to these challenges in their own media consumption and their thoughts about how to address them.