CAP Action Releases 89-Page Report Analyzing The Health Of State Democracies
Too often, a citizen’s ability to have their voice heard in the democratic process depends on where they live. From access to voting rights, to representation in government, or the outsized influence of money in our political system, our opportunity to interact with and participate in democracy varies widely. There are, however, many factors that make up a healthy democracy that should be evaluated in sum, not in silos, if solutions are going to have an overall effect. A new report and accompanying interactive website from CAP Action identifies 22 factors in three categories—accessibility of the ballot, representation in state government, and influence in the political system—to rank and grade states based on their democratic health. You can explore the different factors and share how your state did by visiting healthofstatedemocracies.org and using the hashtag #HealthyDemocracy.
Overall, the results show there is room for improvement in every state. Along with grades for each factor and overall ranks, the report offers concrete policy solutions states should implement in order to improve its residents’ democratic experience. Here’s a rundown of the report’s other key findings:
- Every state has room for improvement. Maine, the top-ranked state in this report, still scored poorly on factors such as Motor Voter implementation and online voter registration. Alabama, in the bottom slot, performs well in certain aspects, including having a two-year revolving door ban.
- States previously covered by Voting Rights Act preclearance requirements perform poorly in accessibility of the ballot measures. While several of these states may perform well in other categories, each of the nine states previously fully covered by pre-clearance requirements perform poorly in accessibility of the ballot: all nine of these states rank in the bottom half of state scores for this category, with none receiving a grade higher than D+.
- States have a great deal of room to improve to ensure that elected leaders reflect state demographics as a whole. There is no state in which women are over-represented in office, and only two – Vermont and Mississippi – in which people of color are represented in elective offices at or above their share of the population at large.
- The strength of laws related to influence in the political system are a particular weak spot for states. Just one state received an “A-” grade in this category, fewer than any other category. Four states received an “A” or “A-” grade in representation in state government, and five received an “A” or “A-” in accessibility of the ballot.
There are many steps states can take to better the health of their democracies. CAP Action’s report suggests providing online voter registration, creating fair district maps, and strengthening disclosure laws as some of the many steps states can take to improve access to the democratic process.
For a more in-depth look at the report’s policy recommendations, and to explore the interactive maps of state performance for yourself, head over to healthofstatedemocracies.org.
BOTTOM LINE: In America, too many things are determined by zip code. CAP Action’s new report found that there are recurring and sometimes growing issues which plague our democratic system as a whole, including poor representation of communities of color and women, and the influence of money in politics. And any effort to effectively address the health of state democracies must adequately tackle these issues.
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