Latest News: Empowering Small Donors After Citizens United and more

August 23, 2012

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Latest News

Empowering Small Donors After Citizens United

The Brennan Center and Democracy 21 offer a new plan to counter big money and super PAC spending in our campaign finance system. The plan lays out how a small donor matching program would encourage a broader base of voters to participate in funding elections, and how such a system could transform political candidates into agents of civic participation who focus on mobilizing their constituents, instead of lining up special interest fundraisers. Read the New York Times editorial and the Los Angeles Times story.

SCOTUS Must Protect Diversity in Higher Education

The Brennan Center and the League of Women Voters filed an amicus brief in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin affirmative action case, urging the Supreme Court to uphold the university’s efforts to encourage diversity in its classrooms. The brief was authored with pro bono counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. It argues that classroom diversity improves democracy and helps end racial inequality. “A substantial record of social science research demonstrates that diversity in higher education benefits students of all races and promotes values essential to a strong and vibrant democracy,” the brief’s authors write. “Diversity also promotes leadership skills and encourages civic engagement among students of all races and ethnicities, encouraging tolerance.” The Obama administration and more than 70 student, civil rights, and public advocacy groups also submitted briefs. The Court will hear Fisher on October 10. Read an op-ed in the National Law Journal by Mark Ladov on the case.

New Report Analyzes Barriers to Registration Drives

Community voter registration drives have increased the numbers of registered voters for decades. But in recent years, state legislatures have increasingly made it harder for voter registration drives to operate. State Restrictions on Voter Registration Drives is the first comprehensive review of state laws governing community-based voter registration drives. The report analyzes restrictions on voter registration drives and explains which rules impose unreasonable and onerous restrictions on these efforts.  Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas stand out as states that have passed the most restrictive laws. It also provides a state-by-state snapshot of the laws in each state.

New York Makes it Easier to Register to Vote

While many states across the country have enacted laws making it more difficult to register to vote, New York just made registration a little easier. The Brennan Center joined Empire State officials to announce a new initiative that would expand access to voter registration through a secure online site. People with a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID can sign in to the state Department of Motor Vehicles website to register to vote or update their current registration. “Creating more options for voters to register, and ensuring they make it onto the rolls, will make a real difference,” the Center’s John Kowal said. “Some states that have instituted similar programs have seen up to an eight-fold increase in voter registrations through the DMV, while saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. That is important for democracy and important for New York.” Read Wendy Weiser and Elisabeth Genn’s op-ed for the Albany Times Union.

Federal Court Blocks Restrictions on Early Voting in Florida

Last Thursday, a panel of federal judges blocked Florida's attempt to restrict early voting in five counties protected by the Voting Rights Act. The panel ruled that these counties may not implement new early voting procedures under Florida’s House Bill 1355, which was signed into law last year by Governor Rick Scott.  The Court found that the new procedures, which would have allowed counties to reduce their early voting periods from 96 hours to as little as 48 hours, were likely to have a racially discriminatory effect and therefore cannot be enforced in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe counties, all counties covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.The Brennan Center represented the League of Women Voters of Florida and the NCLR in the case.  

From the Brennan Center Blog

Fees, Fines, and Debt: How Governments and Companies are Jailing Poor People to Make a Buck – Inimai M. Chettiar

  • According to Chettair, the rising fee amounts and scale of collections in our criminal justice system are often driven by struggling states’ and cities’ efforts to close their budget gaps.

 New York Bets on Success as an Innovative Solution to Crime Inimai M. Chettiar

  • New York City’s new social impact bond initiative could save government money, decrease the crime rate and strengthen urban communities, Chettiar writes.

Pennsylvania Decision Defies Common Sense –  Keesha Gaskins

  • Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson’s decision to uphold the state’s strict voter ID law fails to connect legal principles with practical realities, Gaskins writes.

The Small Donor Revolution Will Not Be TelevisedJonathan Backer

  • Backer argues that the “small donor revolution” will only happen when candidates find the concerns of each of their constituents equally consequential to their electoral prospects.

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


Upcoming Events

Sep. 5 – Keesha Gaskins speaks on redistricting at the New York City Bar Association.

Sep. 10 – Richard L. Hasen, nationally-recognized expert in election law, visits the Brennan Center to discuss his new book, The Voting Wars.

  • “Elections turn judges into politicians, and the need to raise money to finance ever more expensive campaigns makes the judiciary more vulnerable to improper influence by donors,” The New York Times editorialized. The piece cited Brennan Center research on spending in judicial elections.
  • Nicole Austin-Hillery appeared on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC to talk about the impact of restrictive voting laws on the 2012 election.  
  • Elizabeth Goitein reviewed Jack Goldsmith’s book Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11 for The Boston Review.
  • "It might be time to give investigating based on evidence a try because investigating based on race, ethnicity, or national origin clearly isn’t working," Michael Price told Mother Jones reporter Adam Serwer in a story on the NYPD's surveillance of Muslim Americans.
  • The New York Times editorialized in favor of New York’s most recent efforts to modernize the voter registration process.
  • Democracy Now’s Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman spoke with Nicole Austin-Hillery about a judge’s decision to uphold Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.
  • New voting restrictions don't address the real threat to our elections, Lawrence Norden wrote in an op-ed for Politico.
  • Rachel Levinson-Waldman explained to Wired readers how a recent FEC ruling allowing text message campaign donations is good for Democracy, but risky for privacy.
  • A Supreme Court that claims to be ‘color-blind’ ignores the realities of race in this country, Mark Ladov wrote in The National Law Journal.
  • Congress should follow Delaware's lead on disclosure, Jonathan Backer wrote in The HIll.
  • Nicole Austin-Hillery  spoke to CNN’s Joe Johns for his report on how Pennsylvania’s voter ID law could impact the outcome of the state’s political races.
  • PBS Frontline’s Cheat Sheet on Voting Battles in Key Swing States uses Brennan Center research to show the impact of restrictive laws nationwide.

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

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