Achieving Multiracial, Multiparty Democracy

July 6, 2022 | 1:10 pm
Manny Becerra/Unsplash
Michael Latner
Senior Voting Rights Fellow

New CSD report is a call to action from scholars, election experts, and professional organizers.

Today the UCS Center for Science and Democracy is releasing a long-awaited task force report, “Achieving Multiracial, Multiparty Democracy,” which lays out a positive vision and pathway toward achieving substantive electoral reforms in the United States.

This report reflects a collaboration among scholars, election experts and professional organizers. It is possibly the first of its kind to:

1) assess challenges facing democracy reform in the US

2) identify how to build a successful pro-democracy coalition, and

3) suggest institutional reforms based on historical and comparative political science.

The task force grew out of a day-long course sponsored by the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), and the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2021.

In assessing the current reform landscape, it is clear that there is no national pro-democracy movement among the coalitions that constitute the current party system. It has been impossible to pass any national voting rights protections, even after an attempt to violently overturn the 2020 election. Moreover, many well-financed reform advocates in the country appear to have little expertise or interest in strengthening democratic institutions, opting instead to try to force the election of “moderate” representatives while weakening political parties. By contrast, our report focuses on the necessity of strengthening political organizations as a foundation for institutional reform.

Our recommendations, for the public, election experts, and major stakeholders (community organizations, election administrators, voting rights and reform organizations, and philanthropic funders) follow a logic that places community-led political organizations at the center of reform. For a stronger democracy, we must:

  • Secure the integrity of future elections through stronger partnerships between community organizations and local election agencies;
  • Increase political participation through relational and deep organizing practices that focus on the 80 million voters who stayed at home in 2020;
  • Lower local and state-placed barriers that make it difficult for candidates and third parties to qualify for ballots and funding;
  • Expand diversity of representation by increasing assembly sizes in local and state legislatures;
  • Design electoral districts to ensure that all voters are represented;
  • Design capacity for more deliberative policymaking

The expansion of democracy in the United States and across the world has historically relied on the energy of social movements to mobilize and upset status quo coalitions. We find ourselves again in a period of shifting partisan alignments, which present direct challenges to existing institutions and opportunities to improve democratic performance. We do not wish to repeat the mistakes of the past, as compromises in previous reform efforts have helped create our current crisis. In this new era of reform, we have charted a path forward to bring us closer to our democratic ideals, without compromising effectiveness or exploiting those most in need of a seat at the table.