Skip Navigation

Democracy Agenda: Voting

The Democracy Agenda includes a series of common-sense steps that candidates and Congress can embrace to improve our voting system.

Published: February 4, 2016

Read our 2018 Democracy report here.

American elections need repair. Turnout in 2014 plunged to the lowest rate in seven decades. One in four eligible citizens can’t vote simply because they aren’t registered.[1] Those who show up are often met with hours-long lines, outdated voting machines, or error-laden lists that prevent them from casting a ballot.

We hear calls for change each election year, but the problems remained unsolved.

This year can be different. States are already leading the way, improving our electoral process through new, common-sense, modern tools: Online registration, voting before Election Day, user-friendly voting machines. These proposals have bipartisan support because they boost participation while saving money. They prove that each of the major problems hindering our elections, from low registration rates to long lines at the polls, is solvable.

But most states haven’t yet embraced comprehensive reform, meaning millions of Americans will face the same familiar problems in 2016.

Candidates and Congress can help change that.

The Brennan Center has outlined a series of concrete proposals that candidates should embrace to improve elections in America. These ideas include: modernizing our outdated system of registering voters, expanding early voting, fighting back against efforts to pass discriminatory laws, restoring voting rights to people with past criminal convictions, and inspiring a race to the top to get more Americans to the polls. Finally, we address Election Day issues including outdated voting technology and the persistent problem of long lines.

Many of these reforms are the purview of states. But the national government can and should play a strong role — setting national standards and helping states to achieve them.

  1. Modernize Voter Registration
  2. Restore the Voting Rights Act 
  3. Expand Early Voting
  4. Restore Voting Rights to Citizens with Past Criminal Convictions
  5. Replace Outdated Voting Machines
  6. End Long Lines
  7. Prioritize Increasing Voter Turnout
  8. Other Voting Reforms

[1] Jose A. DelReal, Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since WWII, Wash. Post, Nov. 10, 2014, available at; Pew Center on the States, Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence that America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade 1 (2012), available at