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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Voter Registration at Tax Time: Evidence of Efficacy, Approaches to Implementation

September 28, 2021

Voting rights are the bedrock of democracy, but in many parts of the country, those rights are being eroded. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, while 25 states have enacted laws to improve access to the ballot, 18 states have enacted 30 laws making it harder to vote.Policies encouraging citizens to register to vote when they file their income tax returns could play a crucial part in the protection and expansion of ballot access nationally. Properly implemented, voter registration at tax time has the capacity to augment existing ballot access policies and counteract or even reverse voter suppression policies as they apply to registration.The following report presents the results of two rounds of field experiments conducted during the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, that tested the efficacy of a program offering voter registration to lower-income people filing their income taxes through nonprofit Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. It then reviews possible routes to broad implementation of tax-time voter registration through voluntary channels, at the state level, and via federal action.

Civic Participation

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.