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Key Topics for Pillars of Democracy – Electoral Institutions

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On Thursday, January 20, at 4pm, the John W. Kluge Center, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution will co-host a discussion of electoral institutions and how they have become so distrusted. Click here to register and to read the full bios of the participants.

Ahead of that event, we’re sharing recent articles and reports written by the event participants that discuss electoral institutions and the faith that Americans put in those institutions.


Yuval Levin, the moderator of the January 20 event, wrote a New York Times opinion essay titled “Democrats, Voting Rights Are Not the Problem” on the topic of legislative efforts to improve elections. In it, he argues that reforms should be focused on making the process of post-election administration, the counting and certifying of votes, more transparent and trustworthy to voters. Unless legislation can move forward on a bipartisan basis, he writes, one party is likely to see it as an effort to manipulate elections, undermining confidence in electoral systems.


Panelist Julia Azari wrote for Fivethirtyeight about current threats to democratic values. In it, she noted that the states that were closest in the 2020 election, and where conspiracy theories about the results were most common, are those where the most voting-related legislation has been introduced. She also discussed election administration changes in states like Georgia that create “a risk that there could be more partisan input in the certification of election results” in the future.

In another post on Fivethirtyeight, she and other writers for the site discussed the wave of state bills introduced in 2021 related to voting processes.


Panelist Elaine Kamarck wrote for the Brookings Institution on changes to election law in the states – both new expansions of voting and new restrictions. In the article, she talks about which states are imposing restrictions and which states are making voting easier, as well as likely results of this legislation.

In another article for Brookings, she looked at the way that the 2020 census, state legislatures, and redistricting commissions will rearrange the electoral landscape for years to come.


Panelist John Fortier wrote for the American Enterprise Institute about the independence of state and local elections from the federal government. In it, he considers the constitutional basis for federalism in US elections, and how that can result in states having very different election rules when it comes to voting-by-mail, voter identification, and even the hours for polling places.

With Charles Stewart III, Fortier also wrote a report (PDF) on lessons learned from the 2020 election, examining the trends in turnout, increased mail voting, and vote counting.

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