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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Filibuster Reform is Coming—Here’s How: Seven ideas for change

September 13, 2021

In the America of 2021, a seemingly unstoppable force has met an apparently immovable object. Across the nation, state officials are acting with brazen impunity in curtailing voting rights. At best nakedly partisan, and at worst openly racist, legislators are proposing and passing, and some governors are signing, statutes that will strip the ballot from millions, seize the power to overturn election outcomes those partisans don't like, and potentially tilt the political playing field for decades to come. No wonder President Biden has declared it the "most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War." Federal legislation could prevent this by establishing reasonable best practices for voter registration and early voting, and by barring the worst of the provisions. But, that is where the immovable object comes in. Despite majorities in both houses of Congress that have expressed support for voting rights legislation, the Senate filibuster stands in the way.In this paper we assess a range of possible filibuster modifications. We believe the Senate will also consider these options as the pressure to do something to meet the crisis ratchets up. The history of the filibuster is the history of such changes, and so we begin with a survey of that history in Part I. In Part II, we catalog today's principal proposals for modification, enumerating their pros and cons. We include remedies such as reducing the number of senators needed to open debate in the face of a filibuster; obligating the objectors to be present with one of their number speaking at all times during a filibuster; and shifting the burden to them to muster the requisite number of votes required to maintain the filibuster whenever challenged, instead of requiring the 60 who wish to proceed to so vote.

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

Local Journalism in Crisis: Why America Must Revive Its Local Newsrooms

November 12, 2019

Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years. Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation.

Media

America's Electoral Future: Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition

April 1, 2018

The 2016 election was an election that defied most expectations. An unorthodox candidate put together an unexpected coalition of states to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. As the nation's demographics change, questions remain about whether this coalition can hold together for Republicans in 2020 and beyond, and how the shifting views and increased diversity within millennial and post-millennial generations will impact the future of U.S. politics.

Civic Participation

Two Perspectives on Demographics and U.S. Electoral Coalitions After 2016

April 1, 2018

The States of Change: Demographics and Democracy project examines in this report an array of future presidential election outcome scenarios -- from 2020 through 2036 -- that could arise as the demography of the nation and its 50 states changes over the next 18 years.

Campaigns and Elections

How to Combat Fake News and Disinformation

December 28, 2017

Journalism is in a state of considerable flux. New digital platforms have unleashed innovative journalistic practices that enable novel forms of communication and greater global reach than at any point in human history. But on the other hand, disinformation and hoaxes that are popularly referred to as "fake news" are accelerating and affecting the way individuals interpret daily developments. Driven by foreign actors, citizen journalism, and the proliferation of talk radio and cable news, many information systems have become more polarized and contentious, and there has been a precipitous decline in public trust in traditional journalism. Fake news and sophisticated disinformation campaigns are especially problematic in democratic systems, and there is growing debate on how to address these issues without undermining the benefits of digital media. In order to maintain an open, democratic system, it is important that government, business, and consumers work together to solve these problems. Governments should promote news literacy and strong professional journalism in their societies. The news industry must provide high-quality journalism in order to build public trust and correct fake news and disinformation without legitimizing them. Technology companies should invest in tools that identify fake news, reduce financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation, and improve online accountability. Educational institutions should make informing people about news literacy a high priority. Finally, individuals should follow a diversity of news sources, and be skeptical of what they read and watch.

Media

Re-engineering Politicians: How Activist Groups Choose Our Candidates -- Long Before We Vote

December 7, 2017

Political analysts sometimes refer to the process by which candidacies emerge and test their viability as the "invisible primary": activities like candidate recruitment, training, networking, grassroots cultivation, and more. The practice has changed drastically in recent years, with far-reaching effects. This paper examines these alterations and their effects on American democracy, especially focusing on the role of independent groups in shaping the primary battlefield.

Campaigns and Elections