Crushing American Democracy

It’s Real and It’s Happening Now

American democracy is under attack. “One person, one vote” is not a certainty, and some members of our government and of our communities are taking actions to ensure that voters are discouraged and disenfranchised in efforts to win local, state and federal elections at all costs.

There are a number of nefarious actions being taken against American democracy right now, and we should all be aware of them in our fight to protect voting rights:

  • District gerrymandering, false “voter fraud” narratives, and the creation of obstacles for voting (e.g., restrictive voter ID laws, refusing protected time off for voting, and limiting the number and accessibility of polling places thereby creating interminably long voting lines, and outlawing the distribution of water and food to those waiting in line) are all direct threats to fair and equitable access to voting.

learn more about gerrymandering »

  • The electoral college allows for disproportionate voting power amongst states, and there is no federal law that requires electors to vote as they have pledged.

learn more about the electoral college »

  • Social media is heavily filtered and driven by algorithms present the user information based on what the user has already liked/disliked, with no regard for truth or fact-checking. 62 percent of Americans get their news via social media platforms (Pew Research), placing a majority of us in an echo chamber of news and editorial opinions.
  • “Dark money” in politics is a direct result of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Citizens United giving First Amendment protection of free speech to corporations and unions, allowing them to use corporate money to support campaigns without spending limits.
  • The filibuster process allows a minority or an individual to block the majority. There are two pieces of voting rights legislation currently pending in the Senate: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These voting rights laws would enable more Americans to participate in our democracy with greater ease and equality. Those interested in the filibustering of these laws are the politicians who can’t win elections under these fair and equitable conditions.

    Some laws are exempt from filibuster including budget reconciliation, trade promotion authority, the Congressional Review Act, the National Emergencies Act, War Powers Resolution, confirmations of executive branch nominees and judicial nominees, and the debt ceiling. We can protect voting rights by adding them to this list of filibuster exemptions.

learn more about the filibuster »

Take Action to Protect American Democracy

Contact your Senators as well as Senators Collins, Manchin, Murkowski, Portman and Sinema and urge them to protect American democracy by protecting voter rights. Let them know: “NO FILIBUSTER FOR VOTING RIGHTS.”

Find out how to reach your Senators by calling 1-202-224-3121 or by visiting www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.

All About the Filibuster

What is the filibuster?

The filibuster is a parliamentary tactic used to delay action on a legislative bill by talking a great length. The use of this tactic dates back to the Roman Senate which required all business be concluded by nightfall, and there are recorded instances of senator Cato the Younger speaking about a subject in question until dark in order to delay a vote.

In the US Senate, a Senator could filibuster by talking or reading about anything he or she desires for as long as they desire and can stay standing. In 1917 the Senate passed the Cloture rule to limit consideration of a pending proposal to thirty hours and a two-thirds majority vote in order to end a filibuster. In 1975 the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths of all senators duly chosen and sworn, or 60 of the 100-member Senate.

The filibuster is considered a “veto” measure in which a minority or an individual can block the majority. Ideally these measures are reserved for issues in which rights or fundamental interests are in danger by the majority. 

The filibuster is not included in the US Constitution.

How does the filibuster threaten voting rights?

There are two pieces of voting rights legislation currently pending in the Senate: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These voting rights laws would enable more Americans to participate in our democracy with greater ease and equality. Those interested in the filibustering of these laws are the politicians who can’t win elections under these fair and equitable conditions.

Some laws are exempt from filibuster including budget reconciliation, trade promotion authority, the Congressional Review Act, the National Emergencies ActWar Powers Resolution, confirmations of executive branch nominees and judicial nominees, and the debt ceiling. We can protect voting rights by adding them to this list of filibuster exemptions.

Take Action to Protect Voting Rights against the Filibuster

Contact your Senators as well as Senators CollinsManchinMurkowskiPortman and Sinema and urge them to protect American democracy by protecting voter rights. Let them know: “NO FILIBUSTER FOR VOTING RIGHTS.”

Find out how to reach your Senators by calling 1-202-224-3121 or by visiting www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.

The Outdated Notion of the Electoral College

Has an old compromise outlived its utility?

The Electoral College was created in 1787 in Philadelphia at a constitutional convention. At that time no other country in the world directly elected its chief executive and the Founding Fathers were forging new policies, free of tyrannical kings and despots.

Delegates debated for months, searching for a solution that would avoid Congress being directly involved with picking a president, avoid a strictly popular vote (one argument being that 18th-century voters would not be knowledgeable about the candidates, especially in rural areas), and avoid a dangerously powerful, populist president.

The delegates landed on the compromise of the Electoral College: electoral intermediaries, or “electors,” each state, and those electors would cast the actual ballots for the presidency. But how many electors would each state get? More debate ensued.

In 1787 approximately 40% of people living in Southern states were enslaved Black people who could not vote. Southern delegates like James Madison of Virginia (where 60% of its residents were enslaved Black people) knew that if slaves were not counted amongst the population when assigning electors, Southern states would hold less power that those in the North and the compromise would not pass. This ushered in the controversial “three-fifths compromise” in which each enslaved Black person was counted as three-fifths of a resident when calculating representatives, electors and federal taxes.

An unpopular approach in modern times

To win a presidential election in the US, the candidate and his or her vice presidential running mate must capture 270 of the 538 total electoral votes. This approach has led to 5 instances of presidents being elected to office despite losing the popular vote, including 2 in recent history: John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), George W. Bush (2000), and Donald Trump (2016).

According to a 2020 Gallup Poll, 61% of Americans favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system as the country was heading into the 2020 presidential elections – a 6% increase from the same poll in April 2019.

The poll further showed that the preference for electing the president based on the popular vote is driven by 89% of Democrats and 68% of independents. Only 23% of those who consider themselves Republicans share this view, with 77% of them supporting the current system of the Electoral College.

But Wilfred Codrington, an American legal scholar, associate professor at Brooklyn Law School, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice posits that the adoption of the popular vote, and the abolishment of the Electoral College, should be a non-partisan issue. “There are millions of Republicans whose votes are wasted, just as there are millions of Democrats whose votes are wasted, because they live in states that are fully red or fully blue, or mostly red or mostly blue,” he says. “They’re being ignored. And I think that it’s in their interest to think about the popular vote as something that will make their political system more responsive to their interests.”

What is Gerrymandering?

Gerry­man­der­ing is a polit­ical tactic in which voting bound­ar­ies are drawn with the inten­tion of influ­en­cing who gets elec­ted. Today’s intric­ate algorithms and detailed voter data allow map draw­ers to game redis­trict­ing on a massive scale with surgical preci­sion.

learn more about how gerrymandering is done »

The practice of gerrymandering is nearly as old as the United States. In 1788, while design­ing Virgini­a’s very first congres­sional map, Patrick Henry attempted to draw district bound­ar­ies that would block James Madison from winning a seat. But the term wasn’t coined until 1812 when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry redrew the state senatorial districts to favor his party. The Boston Gazette published a cartoon which merged “Gerry” and “salamander” to describe the result, and the term gerrymandering stuck.