Latest News from the Brennan Center

May 1, 2012

Surprising Turn in Voting Fight

The wave of suppressive voting laws enacted in 2011 is beginning to meet resistance at the polls and in the courts. Writing in The New York Times, Brennan Center president Michael Waldman said the best way to curb contentious laws and avoid more legal battles is to modernize our out-of-date registration system. “Voter registration modernization could unite the combatants in the ‘voting wars,’” he wrote. “Yes, we should repel the push to make voting harder for millions of Americans. But if lawmakers really want to protect the integrity of our elections, modernizing our registration system is the answer.” Read the Brennan Center’s modernization proposal.

Poll: 7 in 10 Say Super PACs Lead to Corruption

Nearly 70 percent of Americans say unlimited donations to super PACs  “will lead to corruption,” according to a nationwide independent survey conducted by the Brennan Center. Perhaps the single most important sentence in the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which found that corporations and unions can spend freely to influence elections, was that this largesse does “not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Even more stunning is that regardless of gender, age, region of the county, race, income, household size, education – or even party identification – at least a majority of the respondents in each group believe that the new cash tidal wave is corrupting. Click here for the results.

Weiser Urges House Panel to Protect Voters

Testifying before a House Judiciary Subcommittee, the Brennan Center’s Wendy Weiser (third from left) called for Justice Department scrutiny of new restrictive state voting laws. “These states must demonstrate that new voting laws do not improperly impact minority citizens,” she said. Weiser also told the panel that it is long past time to modernize the antiquated and expensive voter registration system. “Common sense, nonpartisan reforms could add all eligible voters to the rolls while cutting costs, reducing errors, and curbing any chance for fraud,” Weiser testified. To read Weiser’s testimony, go here. See photos.

Health Care Reform Could Live

In a new legal analysis, Brennan Center Senior Advisor Sidney Rosdeitcher says predictions that the Supreme Court will strike down the health insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act are “premature and misleading to the public.”  The questions asked by the bench’s conservative Justices should be seen "solely as a reflection of the issues most troubling [to the Justices]: whether the mandate intrudes on individual liberty in ways that exceed Congress' commerce power and whether upholding the mandate would undermine limits on Congress' commerce powers,” he writes. Concerns expressed by the conservative Justices at the argument should not affect their decision, Rosdeitcher says. His analysis shows how the mandate does not invade any liberty interest protected by the Constitution, and how it falls well within established limits imposed by the Court’s commerce clause jurisprudence.

Public Financing Moves Forward in New York

Things are starting to get interesting in the fight for fair elections in New York. As in previous years, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has introduced a bill calling for campaign finance reform. But this year's bill incorporates a plan backed by the Brennan Center and a broad coalition of groups that would permit an optional public financing system based on matching multiples of small donor contributions. And this time the bill seems to have the backing to actually get somewhere. “This year, we have seen new and broad support from business, labor, faith and civic leaders,” the Brennan Center's Lawrence Norden said. “We are united in supporting small donor public funding with meaningful enforcement and other needed changes in New York's law.”  In recent editorials, the Times Union, Newsday, and the The New York Times have all supported campaign finance reform.

From the Brennan Center Blog

Rhode Island Pushes Campaign Finance Reform - Alina Mejer & Mary Kate Hogan

  • The governor and legislative leaders are pushing a new disclosure bill, an important step to promote transparent elections.

Remembering Charles Colson - Myrna Pérez

  • As someone who was not alive during Watergate, the Brennan Center’s Pérez first knew Colson “as a colleague advocating mercy and redemption.” When she learned about his past, Pérez saw Colson as a “modern-day conversion of Saul.” 

Delaware: Small State Takes Big Steps to Improve its Democracy - Mimi Marziani

  • Two recent measures introduced in the first state to ratify the Constitution could bring much-needed transparency to both lobbying and outside campaign spending .

Read more blog posts here. To have the blog in your RSS feed, click here.


Brennan Center Briefs Capitol Hill Lawmakers

Along with Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) (right), the Brennan Center hosted a panel discussion about the Democracy Restoration Act. The Democracy Restoration Act would restore voting rights to the four million Americans who have been released from prison and are back living in their communities. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.). See pictures here.

Debate on Executive Power

Liberals decried the power of the executive branch for eight years under George W. Bush, but under Barack Obama this broad reach has not diminished. From indefinite detention to intervention in Libya to lethal drone strikes against U.S. citizens abroad, the current administration continues to push the limits of presidential authority. The Brennan Center and the American Constitution Society co-hosted a debate on this timely subject. In a discussion moderated by Prof. Dawn Johnsen (center) of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, Fordham Law Prof. Martin Flaherty (left in photo) and American University Washington School of Law Prof. Stephen Vladeck (right) examined the Constitutional legitimacy of recent actions. See photos here.


  • If lawmakers really want to protect the integrity of our elections, they should support legislation that would modernize our registration system, Brennan Center President Michael Waldman writes in The New York Times.
  • La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, uses Brennan Center data to show how voter ID laws suppress minority votes.
  • Palm Beach Post reporter John Kennedy spoke to Adam Skaggs about campaign spending in Florida’s judicial elections.
  • The Nation noted the Brennan Center’s poll about super PACs (see above) and highlighted the finding that African-American and Latino respondents say that the influence of super PACs discourages them from voting at a higher rate than whites.
  • Myrna Pérez and Lee Rowland discussed the broad support for the Democracy Restoration Act (see above) in The Huffington Post.
  • Adam Skaggs was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times about the proposed rule to require broadcasters to put information about political ad buys online.
  • A Virginian-Pilot editorial said “election mischief” is much more common than voter fraud, and used Brennan Center analysis to show that the goal of Virginia’s voter ID bill is to "reduce the access Americans have to the constitutional right to vote.”
  • The Washington Post’s Fix Blog took note of the Super PAC survey and concluded, “Americans hate super PACs. Or, at the least, they are exceedingly suspicious of them.”
  • Wendy Weiser was interviewed by the Houston Chronicle in a story about the latest developments in the Texas voter ID litigation.


To read more Brennan Center In The News, click here.