Press Release

RELEASE: Democracy 2015: A Year in Review

Washington, D.C. — This past year has seen many developments in how well Americans are able to access key pillars of our democracy, from voting to campaign finance to the integrity of judicial elections, according to a new issue brief, “Democracy 2015: A Year in Review,” released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. While progress was made in key areas such as voter registration, several states took steps backward, including Maryland, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Alabama, and Wisconsin. The follow up to July’s “The Health of State Democracies” report, today’s release details key changes in the past year and notes where several states have missed opportunities for advancement.

“As we head into a presidential election year, the impact of laws related to voting and democracy will be magnified,” said Lauren Harmon, Voting Campaign Manager at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Ensuring that every American has access to their right to vote, that our democracy is representative of our country, and that our elections are conducted with the highest level of integrity is vital to ensuring confidence in our government and our elected officials. Many states still have work to do, and some have even taken steps backward in the last year, a trend we must work to correct.”

Five states are highlighted for the regression analysis in today’s report, leading with Maryland’s blocking voting rights restoration for ex-offenders. Fully 1 out of 13 African Americans are currently unable to vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement, and even though states such as Wyoming, California, Kentucky, and Virginia took positive steps in 2015, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have restored voting rights to 40,000 ex-offenders in his state. Other states taking steps backward include:

  • Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach continued his crusade against voting rights, citing voting fraud. Kobach executed a hunt for voter fraud that resulted in thousands of voters being prohibited from casting a ballot, despite little credible claims of actual fraud.
  • Pennsylvania: A record-breaking amount of money was spent to elect Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices this year—at least $15.8 million. Much of this money was spent on negative television advertising and continued to serve as a barrier for people of color to be elected to the bench.
  • Alabama: The state announced the closure of 31 driver’s license agencies around the state, meaning that the voter ID state would lack a place to obtain a license in 28 counties. Eight of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite registered voters will lose their method of obtaining an ID.
  • Wisconsin: A state that has recently demonstrated the challenges that arise from money in politics decided to put more in, doubling campaign contribution limits while permitting coordination between candidate committees and outside groups with secret donors.

While states such as Oregon and California have led in expanding access and ensuring that all citizens do not face barriers to the ballot, several are still moving in reverse. Over the next year, issues around voting and democracy will play a key role in helping elect our next president, a process in which no American citizen in good standing should be left out.

Read “Democracy 2015: A Year in Review” by Lauren Harmon.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Benton Strong at 202.481.8142 or [email protected].