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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More Parties, Better Parties: The Case for Pro-Parties Democracy Reform

July 3, 2023

Political parties are the central institutions of modern representative democracy. They must also be at the center of efforts to reform American democracy. To redirect and realign the downward trajectory of our politics, we must focus on political parties. We need them to do better. And in order to create better parties, we need more parties.This paper makes the case for pro-parties reform both generally, and then for two specific reforms that would center parties: fusion voting and proportional representation. Fusion voting allows for multiple parties to endorse the same candidate, encouraging new party formation. Proportional representation ends the single-member district, making it possible for multiple parties to win seats in larger, multi-member districts, in proportion to their popular support. The goal of these reforms—fusion in the short and medium term and proportional representation in the long term—is to move us toward a more representative, effective, and resilient democracy for the twenty-first century.


Supreme Court Term Limits: A Path to a More Accountable High Court

June 20, 2023

Today's Supreme Court has assumed a degree of power and importance that would have been unrecognizable in the founding era. A recent cascade of ethics scandals has laid bare a system in which justices wield tremendous power for decades with little accountability while the Court's rulings are increasingly unmoored from democratic values and the principle of judicial restraint. For all these reasons, there are growing calls for reform. One of the most popular options would also be among the most transformative: establishing 18-year terms and regularized appointments for justices.This paper explains how such a reform would work, why it would bolster the Court's legitimacy, and how to transition from the current system. It also discusses how the core elements of this reform could be adopted by statute, consistent with the Constitution, by establishing the role of "senior justice."


A Critical Minerals Policy for the United States: The Role of Congress in Scaling Domestic Supply and De-Risking Supply Chains

June 20, 2023

The United States currently faces a rapidly shifting global environment that increasingly places strategic importance on responsible and resilient access to critical minerals. These minerals—which are essential inputs to a wide range of applications ranging from clean energy technologies to advanced defense systems—will continue to increase in importance over the coming decades. Global competition over these resources due to the rapidly accelerating energy transition, fragmentation of international supply chains, and rising geopolitical tensions with adversaries is of key importance to the climate, economic, and national security interests of the United States in the 21st century.There is an urgent need for policymakers to define a coordinated critical minerals strategy for the United States. A U.S. critical minerals strategy must set out to achieve two objectives. First, it must seek to responsibly increase domestic and global production and processing of critical minerals at the scale and timeline needed to limit global temperature increases. Second, it must aim to secure responsible and resilient critical mineral supply chains that minimize vulnerability to external risks.


Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Front: Helping Ukrainians Win the War and the Peace by Having Their Backs against Oligarchy

June 20, 2023

Remarkably, while fighting for their lives against Russian invasion, Ukrainians continue to wage their long internal battle against oligarchy and corruption. Ukraine is midway through this generational struggle, which began on the streets of the Maidan in Kyiv nearly a decade ago. In 2014, after deposing a kleptocratic president whose campaigns were bankrolled by agents of the Kremlin, Ukrainians got to work transforming this post-Soviet oligarchy into a modern European state under the rule of law.Continuing to uproot oligarchy—a critical part of winning the war, rebuilding the country, and preparing for EU accession—will require heavy domestic and foreign support. Anti-corruption must be central in that support. This issue drove Ukrainians into the streets a decade ago. It has topped voters' minds in every Ukrainian election since, helped trigger the largest war in Europe since WWII, and is now motivating Ukrainians to win even at enormous cost. Transparency and accountability mechanisms are essential to reassuring Western taxpayers that their wartime aid to Ukraine is safeguarded. They must also be key conditions of the ambitious reconstruction and European modernization that will inspire freedom's cause globally. Countering corruption is as strategically vital today as the policy of containing communism was in the Cold War.


Lessons from Other Democracies: Ideas for Combatting Mistrust and Polarization in US Elections

June 15, 2023

Protections are baked into each stage of US election administration. Yet, there is a crisis of confidence in US elections. After falling to a record low following the 2020 elections, trust in US elections increased after the 2022 midterms. However, far too many Americans continue to harbor mistaken beliefs about the prevalence of widespread fraud and miscounted votes, as well as concerns about the ability of election officials to administer future elections fairly. Malign actors—both foreign and domestic—are taking advantage of and reinforcing these trends to serve their varied interests, including geopolitical advantage and monetary gain.Adopting best practices from other countries is an opportunity to buttress policies and procedures that make US elections free and fair and draw inspiration from others facing the same challenges. With its decentralized election system and state "laboratories of democracy", the United States is well suited for incremental, location-specific adaptation of new ideas.


Nations in Transit 2023: War Deepens a Regional Divide

May 24, 2023

In 2023, Democracy Scores declined in 11 out of the 29 countries in the report, and 7 countries earned improvements. Yet civic activists and democratic leaders continued to strive for better governance across the diverse region.Key Findings:For the 19th consecutive year, democratic governance suffered an overall decline in the region stretching from Central Europe to Central Asia.Democratic institutions stood strong in Ukraine but collapsed further in Russia.On illiberal populism, European Union member states pursued diverging paths.EU hopefuls made democratic progress, but still face daunting obstacles.Autocracies remained trapped in a vicious circle of repression and instability.


Economic Democracy Explained: Reimagining Public Goods

May 16, 2023

For decades the federal government has invested insufficient resources into the essential goods and services that communities depend on to survive and thrive. A notable exception was the investments made at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which illustrated both that government can invest in community well-being even though it has typically declined to do so, and the extent to which public goods have been hollowed out over time, making emergency measures necessary. Public goods—the goods and services produced and distributed by government—are the critical scaffolding that help ensure that communities can thrive.By distributing the costs—and benefits—across the broader population, they strengthen our economy by guaranteeing access to basic needs like education, care, critical infrastructure, and more. Public goods can also finally help begin to level the playing field for those who have been structurally stripped of wealth and wealth building opportunities. Moreover, access to robust public goods ensures that power is not concentrated among the wealthy few, which in turn strengthens our democracy.


Uncompetitive and Unrepresented: Voters Locked Out of Representation

May 3, 2023

Tens of millions of Americans have essentially no voice in the U.S. House due to our broken winner-take-all elections. This report estimates the number of voters "locked out of representation" and proposes solutions to restore a voice to every voter.Key findings include:Only 8% of U.S. House elections in 2022 were truly competitive.About 62 million eligible voters live in districts that are safe for the political party they oppose.The Fair Representation Act would give a voice to all Americans who are currently locked out of representation.

Civic Participation; Government

Effective presidential transitions can earn the public’s trust: Almost half of Americans are unsure a 2024 transition would be peaceful

April 25, 2023

The peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations is a hallmark of American democracy. While the United States ultimately transitioned to a new president on Inauguration Day 2021, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the unwillingness of the outgoing president to accept the results of the election demonstrated that a peaceful and orderly transfer of presidential power is not guaranteed.We are almost two years out from a presidential transition to a new administration—should a new candidate win the 2024 election—or a transition to a second term. In either case, orderly transitions succeed with the cooperation of Congress along with years of planning by civil servants, sitting administrations and teams associated with the campaigns of presidential hopefuls. This work can only be effective if the public trusts that the people involved will honor the results of democratic elections and value the need for new administrations to prepare to govern even before taking office.


The Quality of the Decennial Census for Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities: An Expanded Approach

March 30, 2023

The Census is the foundation of our democracy. The U.S. Constitution mandates census data collection to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to redraw district lines at all levels of government. The government also uses census data to distribute federal and state funding. Despite the central importance an accurate decennial census plays in our democracy, the census lacks data on census coverage for Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities at geographies below the national level.While Asian American and NHPI communities were overcounted nationally, some states had undercounts in both 2010 and 2020. This is a problem because, despite a reported national overcount of these communities in 2020, some Asian American and NHPI communities were still undercounted at lower levels of geography.


Fostering a Fourth Democratic Wave: A Playbook for Countering the Authoriarian Threat

March 28, 2023

Fostering a Fourth Democratic Wave is a joint project between the Atlantic Council and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), aimed at catalyzing support for nonviolent pro-democracy movements fighting against authoritarian rule. The project recognizes that civil resistance movements—using tactics such as strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and a range of other nonviolent tactics—are one of the most powerful forces for democracy worldwide and therefore central to reversing the last seventeen years of democratic recession.

Civic Participation; Government

Strengthening Democracy: A Progress Report on Federal Agency Action to Promote Access to Voting

March 3, 2023

On March 7, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14019 Promoting Access to Voting, a visionary EO that has the potential to make registration and voting more accessible for millions of Americans, including many communities historically excluded from the political process. This report evaluates 10 federal agencies on their progress in meeting the goals of this important EO. We find that, while a few agencies have made noteworthy progress, most have either made minimal progress on their initial strong commitments or have left important opportunities on the table. Our findings are clear: most federal agencies have room for improvement in their implementation of the Voting Access EO. We estimate that, if these agencies integrate a high-quality voter registration opportunity for the people they serve, as recommended in this report, they could collectively generate an additional 3.5 million voter registration applications per year.