This volume is a sample of the Brennan Center’s work on all fronts in the fight for democracy and justice in 2017. 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 written by Brennan Center staff and fellows.
In 2017, our nation saw a great battle for the future of liberal democracy. A new president challenged longstanding norms of constitutional self-governance. Even before this, over many years, it became plain that our systems of democracy and justice urgently needed repair.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is at the center of those debates. We’re independent. Nonpartisan. Our work is rooted in rigorous research. This volume offers a taste of our work during this tumultuous year.
When necessary, we fiercely resisted abuse. After the demise of the White House panel that tried to prove bogus voter fraud claims, the Guardian reported: “The Brennan Center was at the forefront of the resistance to the commission’s work.” When Attorney General Jeff Sessions falsely claimed that crime was soaring, aiming to bolster harsh and racially divisive policies, we countered him with facts. We played a key role in the wave of legal challenges to extreme partisan gerrymandering. Our attorneys went to court to challenge the unconstitutional ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries.
But what counts is not what we are against, but what we are for.
The country urgently needs solutions — new policies that can ensure that government will work for everyone. We are mapping out reforms to bolster the rule of law and strengthen ethics and protect democracy. We crafted a plan to protect voting machines and databases from future tampering by foreign foes. Our proposals on criminal justice funding would shift financial incentives away from mass incarceration. And 11 states have enacted automatic voter registration to modernize our elections.
Justice William J. Brennan Jr. once said: “The Constitution will endure as a vital charter of human liberty as long as there are those with the courage to defend it, the vision to interpret it, and the fidelity to live by it.” The Brennan Center is proud to bear his name, and to carry on its work in that spirit.