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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Securing the 2024 Election: Recommendations for Federal, State, and Local Officials

April 27, 2023

What are the gravest threats to the security and integrity of U.S. elections? Over the past decade, the answer to that question has evolved. In addition to foreign cyberattacks and influence campaigns, dangers such as intimidation of election workers and conspiracy theorists assuming election administration positions now put U.S. democracy at risk. In the lead-up to the next presidential election, the United States must adjust to this changed landscape and ensure that the democratic process is protected when the nation goes to the polls.

Campaigns and Elections

2022 Primary Turnout: Trends and Lessons for Boosting Participation

March 6, 2023

This report examines turnout trends during the 2022 primary elections, conducted in 49 states and the District of Columbia, compared with turnout during the 2010, 2014, and 2018 midterm election cycles (Louisiana holds its primary on Election Day.) The paper also analyzes whether certain policy changes—such as unifying primary dates or adopting open primary or "top-two" or "top-four" formats—can boost voter participation.This paper is a follow-up to BPC's 2018 Primary Turnout and Reform Recommendations report, which found persistently low participation rates across states and over time.Low primary turnout should be an ongoing concern for political parties, policymakers, and the public, given primaries' outsized influence in our representative government. As these trends have intensified and turnout has yet to reach reasonable benchmarks, bold steps should be taken to increase participation in primary contests. Our analysis sheds light on the ability of various proposals to boost turnout.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Mitigating Online Misleading Information and Polarization in Conflict-Sensitive Contexts: Experimental Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire

August 3, 2023

As misinformation and polarization increase, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) faces new challenges in its support for electoral integrity, party development, democratic governance, and citizen participation. Our Global Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (G-DMEL) team, in partnership with NDI's Côte d'Ivoire program, aimed to answer the following question: What kinds of democracy interventions - separately or in combination – can impact online misinformation uptake and dissemination among youth, and reduce affective polarizations across partisan divides? With funding from the NED and in collaboration with leading academic researchers from Evidence in Governance And Politics (EGAP), NDI experimentally tested the impacts of four types of intervention hypotheses: one based on capacity building (training on digital literacy) and three designed to mitigate socio-political motivations to consume and disseminate misinformation. The findings revealed that traditional digital literacy interventions alone did not change youth capacity to identify misinformation, nor their behavior in knowingly sharing misinformation. Surprisingly, social identity interventions did have impacts, but in unexpected directions. These critical insights are paving the way for NDI to rethink strategies to combat misinformation in highly polarized environments.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation; Media

California's Top-Two Primary: The Effects on Electoral Politics and Governance

June 8, 2023

In this report, we conduct an in-depth analysis of California's top-two nonpartisan primary election system to better understand if and how eliminating partisan primaries reshapes politics and governance.We evaluate the effects of the top-two system in California based on the criteria established by supporters and opponents of such primary reforms, as well as by political scientists. Specifically, we assess the impact of Top Two on polarization, turnout and meaningful electoral participation, election competitiveness, Californians' assessment of state governance, and party strength. We exhaustively review existing peer-reviewed research and conduct original analysis to understand whether the claims and hopes of reform advocates came true.

Campaigns and Elections

Distorting Nigeria's Elections? How Disinformation Was Deployed in 2023

June 8, 2023

This report highlights key trends observed in the proliferation of disinformation before and during Nigeria's 2023 election. It argues that false and misleading information on social media has the potential to affect voter behaviour which in turn can lead to voter apathy, suppression, election interference, and a general distrust of the electoral system.It details the tactics used by political actors and supporters to get this distorted information into circulation. It argues that for the first time in Nigeria's recent electoral history, we saw the use of fact checks from credible organisations to campaign against their opponents, leveraging the trust the voting public has in fact-checkers to improve their chances at the polls. We also saw, in a continuation from previous polls, the use of synthetic and manipulated media to drive disinformation campaigns and an evolution of the sophistication of audio leaks was also observed, with manipulated audio used to construct conversations between politicians to push certain narratives. The report also documents an increase in the number of new online 'news' websites that propagated political and ethno-religious disinformation in the build-up to Nigeria's 2023 general elections.

Campaigns and Elections

A Democracy Crisis in the Making: 2024 Election Threats Emerging (June 2023)

June 8, 2023

In April 2021, we published the first edition of A Democracy Crisis in the Making: How State Legislatures Are Politicizing, Criminalizing, and Interfering with Election Administration. That Report identified a burgeoning trend in state legislatures: bills that would increase the risk of election subversion—that is, that the declared outcome of an election does not reflect the true choice of the voters. Through the 2021 and 2022 state legislative sessions, we tracked nearly 400 legislative proposals that would make election subversion more likely. Fifty-six of them ultimately became law in 26 states.In the two years since our first Report, the danger of election subversion has drawn wider attention. During the 2022 midterm elections, the future of nonpartisan election administration was a campaign issue. Exit polling showed that "democracy" was a top concern for voters. That election came and went without major crises, and the accurate results were ultimately certified on time and in accordance with the law. Moreover, voters in certain states decisively rejected election deniers, whose beliefs were rooted in the baseless conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. Some states are moving towards proactively safeguarding against election subversion by advancing legislation to enhance security and privacy protections for election workers or refocusing investigative efforts on improving voter access.

Campaigns and Elections

Asian Americans in the 2022 Midterm Elections: Findings From the 2022 National Poll of Asian American Non-Voters and Voters

May 30, 2023

This report presents the topline results of the 2022 National Poll of Asian American Non-Voters and Voters, a survey commissioned by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC and fielded in the weeks following the 2022 midterm elections. The poll interviewed 2,100 Asian American voters and 700 non-voters (i.e., registered but did not vote and eligible but not registered) and asked respondents about their views on and experiences during the election.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

New voter turnout data from 2022 shows some surprises, including lower turnout for youth, women, and Black Americans in some states

May 18, 2023

Perhaps the most notable finding with respect to voter turnout is that 2022 turnout rates were nearly as high as the record-setting 2018 midterm turnout rates. Yet unlike the previous midterm elections, the groups with the highest Democratic voting margins—in particular, young people, Black Americans, women, and white female college graduates—did not show greater turnout increases than other groups, and often displayed lower turnout rates than in the 2018 midterms. These groups displayed higher turnout rates than in the low-turnout 2014 midterms, but either did not match or did not improve on their 2018 turnout levels. And only a minority of states registered turnout increases between 2018 and 2022, while an even smaller number showed increases among young and nonwhite voters.Overall, the data places a somewhat new lens on the results of last November's midterms. The stronger-than-expected Democratic performance was largely due to the voting preferences of the party's favored demographic blocs that turned out to vote. But the turnout rates for these blocs—while still higher than most pre-2018 elections—either declined or did not rise since the previous midterms.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Policy to Carry Us Beyond the Next Election: The 2022 midterm election showed resilience in election administration. Now, we must build it.

April 10, 2023

This report is a departure from the "sky is falling" tone that has become typical of debates about election administration. Protecting democracy is and always will be urgent. However, with 20 months before the next federal election, we have a rare opportunity to consider not just the next election but the next 100: to think long term about where we want our democracy to be for future generations, and what policy changes must be made now to get us there.This report pairs long-term vision with concrete, interim reforms. We lay out six goals for the future of election administration and detail actionable policy recommendations that, if implemented soon, would help make those goals a reality. We strive to supersede partisan politics as a motivator and instead place voters and election administrators front and center.

Campaigns and Elections

Securing 2024: Defending US Elections through Investment and Reform

March 27, 2023

This report outlines additional steps that Congress and state legislatures can take to mitigate existing electoral vulnerabilities and prevent threats from undermining future elections. Federal laws to protect election workers, for example, are urgently needed and are clearly the role of Congress. At the same time, states should lead by passing needed protections and playing their historic role as laboratories of innovative democracy. The laws recently passed at the state level that improve protections, expand funding, and increase penalties for those who threaten election workers serve as demonstrations of these programs' effectiveness that will hopefully build support for federal action.

Campaigns and Elections

Monopoly Politics 2024

February 13, 2023

FairVote has conducted the Monopoly Politics project in each Congressional election cycle since 1997.Monopoly Politics projects the results of every congressional district up to two years in advance, demonstrating that partisanship is the primary factor determining electoral outcomes, dwarfing other factors like local issues and candidate strength. The result is a polarized system where candidates are rewarded for adopting hyper-partisan platforms, particularly in hyper-partisan districts, instead of championing inclusive policies and bipartisan compromise that benefit all. Our 2024 projections suggest that 85% of seats are "safe" for one party, and another 9% favor one party, leaving only 6% of seats as true toss-ups. The 85% share of safe seats is the highest in the 25-year history of Monopoly Politics. At FairVote, we think outside the box. We promote legislative reform that prevents gerrymandering and improves equal voting power and fair representation in multi-winner districts. FairVote is working to end single-winner congressional districts. To end redistricting battles for good, we must reimagine how we elect our representatives.

Campaigns and Elections

Who Profited from Election Deniers?

January 17, 2023

As election-denying secretary of state candidates spouted rhetoric that eroded people's faith in our free and fair elections, political operatives behind the scenes were raking in the dough.A new Issue One review of state campaign finance filings reveals a slice of which companies and political consultants across the country converted election denialism into profit during the 2022 midterm elections.

Campaigns and Elections