You Can Fix #UnhealthyDemocracy in 2020

January 15, 2020 | 1:31 pm
public domain
Michael Latner
Senior Voting Rights Fellow

In cooperation with the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists is holding its first election webinar of the year: #UnhealthyDemocracy: Where Voting Rights Meets Environmental Justice

If you want to restore evidence-based policymaking in government and promote science for the public good, it is going to take more than voting this year. The electoral process itself is under attack in many states, and nearly a decade of partisan gerrymandering and erosion of voting rights has crippled the public’s ability to hold elected policymakers accountable.

The price for such negligence is high. As documented in our recent report Our Unhealthy Democracy and other analyses, unresponsive government is contributing to greater health disparities, environmental degradation and greater threats to public safety. Fixing democracy in 2020 is going to require citizens to rebuild our political institutions and restore integrity to our elections.

The good news is that we have the tools of science and the energy of engaged citizenship to do the work ahead. While it hasn’t captured as many headlines as our government dysfunction, 2019 marked the rebirth of a reform movement in the United States, capturing the attention of activists and experts across the political spectrum.

This year, with the help of UCS and other partner organizations, you can grow the movement and help fix the three greatest threats to electoral integrity by:

  • Removing barriers to voter eligibility through pre-registration, automatic voter registration, same day registration and secure registration list management;
  • Reduce voter suppression by expanding early voting and ballot access through no fault mail/absentee voting and voting centers open at least two weeks prior to Election Day;
  • Reduce partisan and racial gerrymandering by restoring the Voting Rights Act, requiring states to use independent redistricting commissions, and adopting proportional representation, including the use of “open list” and single-transferable-vote systems, to better ensure that everyone’s vote counts equally.

Numerous scientific studies have shown the effectiveness of these reforms, and you can get all the information you need through the webinar, the UCS Voting Rights and Environmental Justice web page, and studies collected by other voting rights and reform organizations. These resources are also helpful to find out what’s going on in your state and what organizations are working for reform.

What can you do to help? Use your voice to increase public awareness of and support for these reforms:

  • Help turn the scientific community onto democracy reform! Social media is a great way to spread the word about #UnhealthyDemocracy and how we fix it, update your friends on CSD and partner events, and the many victories that we achieve as the movement builds;
  • Get state and local organizations to support fixing #UnhealthyDemocracy by writing letters and opinion pieces, earning endorsements from organizations and local leaders that have not previously engaged in election reform, and joining local efforts in the communities most affecting by vote suppression;
  • Debate #UnhealthyDemocracy! With presidential debates well under way, the candidates need to be talking about what they can do to fix democracy. In addition to getting presidential candidates to discuss federal legislation, including the For the People Act, the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Fair Representation Act, you can hold debate parties, attend events and push statewide and local candidates to support democracy reforms.

Need more tools? Check out our ScienceRising toolkit, it has everything you need to be an advanced citizen. We can do more than try to withstand the assault on democracy that is coming in 2020, we can overcome it and restore integrity to our elections. But it is going to take all hands on deck. You are up to the challenge, now let’s get to work!