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Strengthening Voting Rights and Democracy

Fighting for an Inclusive Democracy

American democracy is at a crossroads and the stakes could not be higher. To realize the promise of a representative, inclusive democracy, our electoral system must guarantee every American the right to vote, the power to participate and elected leadership that is responsive to their constituents and communities, not just corporations and special interest.   

However, more than a decade of attacks on voting rights and democratic participation—from Shelby County v. Holder and restrictive state voter ID laws to  Citizens United and gerrymandering—have undermined the...

American democracy is at a crossroads and the stakes could not be higher. To realize the promise of a representative, inclusive democracy, our electoral system must guarantee every American the right to vote, the power to participate and elected leadership that is responsive to their constituents and communities, not just corporations and special interest.   

However, more than a decade of attacks on voting rights and democratic participation—from Shelby County v. Holder and restrictive state voter ID laws to  Citizens United and gerrymandering—have undermined the core principles of representative democracy, eroding the participation and political power of ordinary citizens and the New American Majority. These structural barriers disproportionately target and impact people of color, young voters and low-income voters. These structural barriers disproportionately disenfranchise and depress the voices and votes of communities of color, low-income communities and youth.

In the face of these attacks, CPD’s Voting Rights & Democracy Program is working to protect and strengthen our democracy. We are building national momentum and state and local capacity to drive a proactive democracy agenda to increase access to the ballot, expand the electorate, ensure people-powered campaigns and strengthen the voice of the New American Majority in the electoral process.

In this context, we are driving proactive democracy reforms where we can and fighting to protect and defend democratic infrastructure where we must. Our strategy includes: 

Defend and Expand Access to the Ballot Our current voter registration system and voting laws creates unnecessary barriers that exclude tens of millions of eligible voters from the democratic process. Even when folks get on the voting rolls, new voter ID laws, purging of registered voters from the rolls and other restrictions on voting in many states have kept significant numbers of eligible and registered voters from being able to cast a ballot. To ensure that every eligible voter can cast a ballot that is counted, CPD is advancing structural policy changes at the state and local level that reduce registration disparities, further universal voter registration and ensure that every person can participate.  We working with state affiliates and national allies to pursue innovative proactive registration reforms like Automatic Voter Registration, Same Day Registration, Online Voter Registration and voter registration at local agencies and high schools. We are also working at the state level to restore the right to vote for the more than 6.1 million Americans with felony convictions that are excluded from democratic participation by felony disenfranchisement laws.

Strengthening the Voice and Power of Voters in our Elections Ensuring that political leaders represent and are accountable to the interests of all Americans, and not just the wealthy and powerful few, requires reducing the influence of big money in our elections. We must address our badly broken campaign finance system that gives big corporations and wealthy special interests an outsized influence on who runs for elected office, who wins and what priorities they pursue when in office. Well-designed public financing reforms can achieve that goal by creating a broader, more diverse, small-dollar donor base, enabling diverse candidates to run and win competitive campaigns, amplifying the voices of people of color and low- and moderate-income communities, and diminishing the role of large, concentrated campaign contributions. We will work with our state partners and national allies to win policies that amplify the voices of communities and ordinary voters, including state and local public financing reform that match small contributions with public funds.

Fight for Fair and Representative Districts Redistricting is intended to ensure that Congressional and state legislative districts are fair and representative but in many cases, elected officials have used the process to manipulate district lines to stack the deck in favor of a political party, incumbents or a specific segment of the community. Partisan and racial gerrymandering have been used to lock in one-party control, disempower the New American Majority, and insulate elected leadership from the will of the people. We are working with state affiliates and national partners to advance policies that support drawing districts that fairly represent communities and organizing to ensure that voters choose their elected leadership and not the other way around

Increasing Political Participation by Engaging New and Infrequent Voters Through Year-Round Organizing and Civic Engagement Building a representative and inclusive democracy requires increasing and deepening meaningful engagement within communities whose voices are underrepresented in our democracy. CPD works with our state affiliates to develop programs that not only increase the voter participation of the New American Majority during election years, but that also build the sustainable, progressive infrastructure to authentically engage voters, communities and political leaders to create real policy change at the local, state and national level. Utilizing deep roots in communities and issue-based organizing, CPD and our partners are driving our issues into the political debate and moving new leaders and activists into the process of driving policy and shaping our community.

Our Approach

To achieve these transformative goals, we engage communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities, young people, women and progressive state and local coalitions to advance game-changing reforms that expand and deepen democratic participation.

  1. We work in coordination with our state affiliates, partners and national allies to develop and run policy campaigns to win proactive democracy reforms in states and local jurisdictions across the country.

  2. We develop innovative policy solutions that strengthen the right to vote, build power in communities and expand participation in our democracy.

  3. We invest in state and local campaigns led by our state partners, grassroots base-building organizations, and diverse and sustainable state coalitions, with the robust participation of communities of color, women, young people and moderate- and low-income communities.

  4. We build the capacity of our state partners to engage in proactive democracy work by developing and investing in their organizing, advocacy and fundraising capacities.

  5. We utilize our strategic communications, digital and research capacity to build a powerful public narrative around the need for proactive democracy reforms.  

  6. We provide policy and campaign expertise and technical assistance to state partners, coalitions, campaigns and national allies and develop the grassroots policy expertise of our state partners.

  7. We build robust national infrastructure to power and support proactive democracy campaigns that strengthen and expand our democracy from the ground up.

 

News

In a recent Center for Popular Democracy report, we detailed examples of youth-focused campaigns...

05/9/2018 | The Huffington Post

National groups, in search of voting rights laws that could be pursued in Republican-controlled...

01/5/2018 | Mic

09.11.17

NEW YORK – Emma Greenman, director of the Voting Rights and Democracy...

09/11/2017

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facts & figures

100+ million

The number of eligible voters who did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.

6.1 million

The number of American citizens disenfranchised from voting due to a former felony conviction. The state of Florida accounts for more than a quarter (27%) of that.  

45%

The number of eligible citizens age 18-24 who are not registered to vote. 57%, of 18-24 year olds did not vote in the 2016 election.

Largely as a result of historic and newly enacted barriers to voting erected by right-wing policy makers, civic...

100+ million

The number of eligible voters who did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.

6.1 million

The number of American citizens disenfranchised from voting due to a former felony conviction. The state of Florida accounts for more than a quarter (27%) of that.  

45%

The number of eligible citizens age 18-24 who are not registered to vote. 57%, of 18-24 year olds did not vote in the 2016 election.

Largely as a result of historic and newly enacted barriers to voting erected by right-wing policy makers, civic participation in the United States remains dismal compared to other advanced democracies. In the 2016 presidential election, only 61% of eligible voters turned out to vote.

Furthermore, voter turnout is dramatically lower in non-presidential elections. Mayors are often elected with single-digit turnout and scholars estimate that local elections generate an average turnout of approximately 25-30% of the voting age population.

This gap in voting is aggravated by the influence of corporate lobbying and spending on elections and has profound consequences for public policy. A recent study of Congressional votes “reported that legislators were three times more responsive to high-income constituents than middle-income constituents and were the least responsive to the needs of low-income constituents.”