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Research Report

Democracy & Justice: Collected Writings, Vol. VII

Published: February 5, 2014

This volume is a sample of the Brennan Center’s work on all fronts in the fight for democracy and justice in 2013. Material is drawn from Brennan Center reports, policy proposals, and issue briefs, in addition to public remarks, legal briefs, congressional testimony, and op-ed pieces delivered at Brennan Center events or written by Brennan Center staff.

Introduction by Michael Waldman

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Our political system’s long slide toward dysfunction tipped into crisis in 2013. Amid shutdowns and debt ceiling drama, for the first time, government dysfunction ranked highest among Americans’ concerns about the well-being of our nation.

So we have to do what Americans have done every time our institutions fall short of our values. We can’t just complain. Despite filibustering and gerrymandering, Super PACs and shutdowns — we can do better.

That’s where the Brennan Center for Justice comes in. We start with research. We communicate widely. We craft reforms. And we fight for them in court. That’s the way Americans have always made legal change.

Over the past few years, the Brennan Center has become one of America’s most effective nonpartisan voices for democracy and justice. When we have to, we fight to defend our values. Hours after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, states across the country erupted in a festival of voter suppression. We are fighting back.

But defensive fights — even defensive victories — are not enough. More than ever: If we don’t fix our systems, we won’t solve our problems.

This is the Brennan Center’s next great mission. We aim to become the dynamic center of a new generation of reform ideas. And we’re off to a great start.

Our voter registration modernization proposal would guarantee that every eligible American could vote. Nine states enacted parts of our plan in 2013. Our proposal for an independent oversight for the NYPD is now law. In New York State, we came within one vote of passing small donor public financing and comprehensive reform. And The Washington Post hailed our “smart” plan to reform federal funding to reduce mass incarceration.

This volume offers a sample of this great work from 2013.

We are continuing the fight in 2014. Already, our voting reforms have seen bipartisan consensus in — of all places — Washington, D.C. In January, lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. One week later, President Obama’s voting commission released new ideas to improve access to the ballot box. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included public financing in this year’s state budget.

We take our charge from Justice Brennan and his notion of the living constitution — which, at its heart, reflects the core values of our Declaration of Independence — that we are all created equal. Every day, our works seeks to hold America accountable to that fundamental ideal.