Liberty and Justice for All? Alabama Ranks 51st in New Report on the Health of State Democracies

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New report examines 22 factors in measuring democracy in Alabama

Washington, D.C. — Alabama ranks 51st in a new report released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund that gives each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia an overall rank and examines and assigns grades for the categories of accessibility of the ballot, representation in state government, and influence in the political system. The authors’ analysis reveals that these issues must be addressed in sum, not in silos. “The Health of State Democracies” report gives Alabama an F in accessibility, a D- in representation, and an F in influence.

Each state, including Alabama, has areas for significant improvement, with all states specifically needing to address disproportionate representation—no matter where they finish in the rankings. The report also provides recommendations for improvement for Alabama, including modernizing voter registration, removing structural barriers to full participation, and mitigating the influence of money in the political system.

The report evaluates Alabama on measures such as voting laws, redistricting outcomes, campaign finance laws, fair courts, and others as vital, interconnected pieces of a state democracy. There are 22 factors in the three categories, which together paint a much clearer picture of the actual environment within Alabama than when measured alone.

“Too often in this country, access to the freedoms and privileges guaranteed under the Constitution are determined by ZIP code,” said Michele Jawando, Vice President of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Whether it is access to voting rights, representation in government, or the outsized influence of money in our political system, the opportunity to interact with and participate in democracy is available to some but blocked for many. 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.”

While specific recommendations vary greatly by state, one significant overall finding is that states that rank better on accessibility of the ballot have significantly higher voter turnout, and states previously covered by Voting Rights Act preclearance requirements perform poorly in accessibility of the ballot. Even though 15 states receive a failing grade in accessibility of the ballot—a far higher failure rate than in any other category—this finding suggests that limiting barriers to voting means more people will exercise the right.

Read “The Health of State Democracies” by Lauren Harmon, Charles Posner, Michele L. Jawando, Matt Dhaiti

Visit the interactive website www.healthofstatedemocracies.org

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Benton Strong at 202.481.8142 or bstrong@americanprogressaction.org