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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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8 Ways To Protect American Democracy: Safeguarding Elections in 2024 and Beyond

January 4, 2024

This report provides a roadmap to help heal and strengthen American democracy. It explains some of the most pressing challenges that the 2024 U.S. elections will bring and how states, election officials, and the public must not only counter these challenges but also improve election safety, accessibility, and security. The report also looks beyond the horizon of the next election to the long-term challenges that lay at the very root of the crisis facing free and fair elections.

Threats From Political Minority Rule in Wisconsin and North Carolina

December 7, 2023

The United States has been on a long arc toward achieving a multiracial democracy that can effectively represent all Americans, including long-marginalized communities. Yet opponents of a more pluralistic democracy are erecting barriers at the federal and state levels designed to lock in political minority rule and slow the nation's progress. At the state level, this aggressive countermajoritarian movement can be seen most starkly in Wisconsin and North Carolina. Despite the fact these two states are divided almost 50-50 politically, their Republican-controlled legislatures are taking unprecedented steps to draw extreme partisan legislative maps to lock in political power, limit long-held authorities of governors, pass voter suppression and election sabotage laws, and steer state supreme courts toward preferred results.Breaking political norms to retrench political power is deeply unhealthy for the republic. However, structural reforms and other mechanisms can blunt these minority rule measures. These include banning partisan gerrymandering, establishing an affirmative legal right to vote, enacting nationwide federal standards that expand access to the ballot and thwart partisan election subversion, passing statewide ballot initiatives where that option exists, and creating a nonpartisan movement to help counter anti-democracy power grabs.

Protecting Democracy Online in 2024 and Beyond

September 14, 2023

In 2024, more than 2 billion voters across 50 countries—including in the United States, the European Union, and India—will head to the polls in a record-breaking number of elections around the world. Nearly a decade after social media was weaponized to influence election outcomes and with the technological advancements of today, such as generative artificial intelligence, poised to worsen or cause new problems, it is more prudent than ever that technology platforms and governments do everything in their power to safeguard elections and uphold democratic values online. The reality of today's technology and social media landscape paints a stark picture of platforms underprepared for the year ahead against a backdrop of unforeseen, novel challenges alongside known threats. Meanwhile, the prominent parent companies of many major social media platforms, known colloquially as Big Tech, have retreated from the election protection measures put in place in 2020 and initiated layoffs that have affected trust and safety teams across the industry, leaving them less prepared for a year of back-to-back and high-profile elections than perhaps ever before.The Center for American Progress has previously published reports identifying major threats to digital democracy and recommending steps that social media companies should take to mitigate them—most recently in 2022, with "Social Media and the 2022 Midterm Elections: Anticipating Online Threats to Democratic Legitimacy." And earlier, in 2020, the report "Results Not Found: Addressing Social Media's Threat to Democratic Legitimacy and Public Safety After Election Day" anticipated post-election delegitimization and real-world violence, suggesting product approaches to reduce harm.This new report specifically anticipates risks to and from the major social media platforms in the 2024 elections, continuing CAP's work to promote election integrity online and ensure free and fair elections globally. The report's recommendations incorporate learnings from past elections and introduce new ideas to encourage technology platforms to safeguard democratic processes and mitigate election threats. In a world without standardized global social media regulation, ensuring elections are safe, accessible, and protected online and offline will require key actions to be taken ahead of any votes being cast—both in 2024 and beyond.

How Michigan Became a Blueprint for Strengthening Democracy

June 15, 2023

This report details the increase in civic participation as a result of the voting and election reforms in Michigan, as well as the success and continued support that independent redistricting has garnered in helping to secure fair representation in the state. It analyzes the critical role that citizen-initiated constitutional amendments have had in strengthening the state's democratic foundation, helping Michigan become a blueprint for voting reform and increased representation and voter participation as well as successful policy implementation. Lastly, this report positions Michigan in strong contrast to antidemocratic efforts pushed by lawmakers in other states.

Civic Participation

The Needed Executive Actions to Address the Challenges of Artificial Intelligence

April 25, 2023

While various forms of artificial intelligence tools and applications have been in development for many years, it is the recent deployment of large language models (LLMs, also referred to here at "advanced AI"), such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, that has sparked both global interest and concern. Although advanced AI has recently captured public attention, other forms of AI—already in use in government and industry—also raise concerns due to their potential to inflict harm. The policy issues and recommendations below apply to currently available automated systems—with special consideration of LLM-based AI applications—and with an eye to other forms of advanced AI on the horizon.President Joe Biden should address the challenges and opportunities of AI with an immediate executive order to implement the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and establish other safeguards to ensure automated systems deliver on their promise to improve lives, expand opportunity, and spur discovery.

It’s Time To Talk About Electoral Reform

January 31, 2023

Over the past several decades, advocates for improving American democracy have focused their efforts on a few discrete issues. However, there is another equally fundamental issue that has, until recently, received only niche attention. That issue is electoral reform—examining the most basic rules of the political system and finding ways to ensure that they are promoting effective, representative government. The electoral system is the set of rules that determines how representatives are selected: which candidates and political parties can compete on the ballot, who those candidates and parties represent, and how voters are allowed to choose between them.This report describes the important elements of the U.S. electoral system and identifies the reasons why they are not functioning well. It also describes a range of possible solutions that deserve further consideration, including fusion voting, ranked-choice voting, primary election reform, multimember districts, and methods of proportional representation.

Government

Guns and Anti-Government Extremism in Nevada

July 20, 2022

The rise in violent white supremacist and anti-government extremism has permeated across the United States in recent years. All eyes were on Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, when—after years of rising tensions instigated by former President Donald Trump and his supporters—hundreds of militia groups and right-wing extremists attacked the Capitol. More than one year later, on May 14, 2022, a white 18-year-old espousing the racist "great replacement theory" fatally shot 10 Black people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. This white supremacist conspiracy theory posits that white people across the globe are going to be replaced by people of color.These devastating attacks did not occur in a vacuum. Gun violence prevention advocates had cautioned for months that the dangerous rhetoric could manifest in violent, deadly extremism; however, many did not heed the warning. In 2016, the Center for American Progress—in partnership with the Institute for a Progressive Nevada—released a detailed report on anti-government violent extremism in Nevada that echoed across the country. Nevada has an infamous history of violent extremist and anti-government actions by some residents. Now, the state is at a crossroads, experiencing rising extremist rhetoric alongside calls for weaker gun laws that, if combined, could be devastating and result in higher levels of extremist violence.This report is an update on the 2016 Center for American Progress report and examines how the combination of rising violent extremist ideologies and weak gun laws can lead to disastrous results for state residents. This report also presents the following policy solutions, which can be used to prevent future violent extremist attacks:Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.Ban guns at polling places.Implement waiting periods for purchasing guns.Enact preemption laws.Address hate crimes.Enact a licensing law.

Stopping Political Spending by Foreign-Influenced U.S. Corporations

May 3, 2022

Laws are needed to prevent American-based corporations with appreciable levels of foreign ownership from spending money from their corporate treasuries to sway U.S. elections or ballot initiatives. As discussed in a 2019 Center for American Progress report, a U.S. corporation should be deemed "foreign influenced" and prohibited from election and ballot-related spending if the corporation meets one of the following criteria:A single foreign shareholder owns or controls 1 percent or more of the corporation's equity.Multiple foreign shareholders own or control—in the aggregate—5 percent or more of the corporation's equity.Any foreign entity participates in the corporation's decision-making process about election-related spending in the United States.This fact sheet discusses the ongoing problem of political spending by foreign-influenced U.S. corporations and emphasizes the need for lawmakers to establish foreign-ownership thresholds such as those listed above to limit such spending.

Campaigns and Elections

Advancing Equity: Review of the Biden Administration’s Efforts in Its First Year To Implement a Racial Equity Agenda

February 17, 2022

This report focuses on the Biden administration's efforts to address systemic inequities in four core and interconnected areas over its first year in office: 1) restoring trust in America's justice and political systems and ensuring they fairly represent and benefit all Americans; 2) building a stronger and more equitable economy for all; 3) tackling health inequities and improving public health; and 4) promoting a more equitable and sustainable climate. It provides recommendations of necessary steps to further address these issues.

How To Save American Democracy

January 4, 2022

This issue brief aims to clarify how future elections are threatened and how public policy can address those threats. But it is important to clarify at the outset: There is no silver bullet. A large segment of the American public has decided they do not trust the electoral system—at least not when their favored candidate loses. Changing those hearts and minds is a long-term challenge that is going to require thoughtful, long-term solutions.In the meantime, however, policymakers ignore the short-term problem at their peril. Election officials might refuse to certify the next election. Bad actors might try to tamper with the results of the election—or prevent their opposition from voting—under the pretense of preventing fraud. And, even when the election is over and done, members of Congress might refuse to respect the Electoral College results.This issue brief explores each of these threats below, along with the ways that public policy can address them. Legislation alone is not going to restore faith in democracy, but it can strengthen the guardrails that—at least in the short run—keep democracy intact.

Government

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

How Americans Envision a More Perfect Union: A Common Path Forward for the Country

May 26, 2021

The American people have taken their fair share of knocks over the past two years, from the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn to the nation's increasingly fractured politics and rising polarization across much of society. Talk of national unity is seen as an illusory goal as various factions press their ideological agendas on government. Americans themselves are right to wonder: "Is there anything we can do together in our politics? Can we find even a temporary conception of the common good and move forward with a set of policies that help all people and reduce inequalities between people and places?"This study conducted by the Center for American Progress and GBAO Strategies examines a range of policy issues that could shape the post COVID-19 recovery and rebuilding effort. It suggests that there is a unified path forward if our leaders choose to focus on the core aspects of national renewal: making major investments in the sources and sectors of good-paying jobs; linking U.S. domestic and foreign policy more tightly to better protect workers and U.S. interests; upgrading national infrastructure; and supporting American families as they try to get back on their feet.This report will look at the wider economic context shaping American public opinion, providing detailed explorations of voter attitudes on major domestic and foreign policy priorities; beliefs about America's role in the world and the proper role of government; and voter reactions to a series of 20 concrete ideas that could potentially drive more unified national action.