Democracy Docket’s Voices of 2023

A collage of the different guest contributors to Democracy Docket this year along with visuals that represent various pieces. White background with red and blue featured images.

2023 was a busy year for Democracy Docket, and a core part of our exhaustive coverage came from our guest authors. From members of Congress to voters, legal scholars, organization leaders and more, they brought unique perspectives to the biggest debates on democracy-related issues. Here is a look back at the multitude of diverse voices we have featured in the last year and the key issues they covered.

Showing Up Where It Matters — Everywhere

The best way to advocate for voters is to meet them where they are — that means year-round organizing, listening rather than telling, seeing the person behind the vote and celebrating the wins we accomplish together.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) put this into practice, explaining the importance of engaging voters in all counties, not just the ones with the big cities, an argument Lauren Gepford of Contest Every Race echoed. Black and brown voters are a key and powerful voting bloc in rural America too, and organizations like the New Georgia Project Action Fund, need to continue uplifting their voices. The same approach can be said for paying attention to races all the way up and down the ballot — Democrats’ future success relies in part on the strength of their local candidates, Run for Something’s Ross Morales Rocketto argued.

The Power of Young and Minority Communities

The tide is shifting in the country and the old powers that be are concerned. Those like former Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell have gone so far as to decry the “young people effort,” urging supporters to make it harder for students to vote. We keep hearing it, young people are angry and turning out to vote. But they are not alone. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, ethnic and racial minorities will become the majority of the population, usurping those considered white from the long-held majority position. 

But there’s good news to be found in the onslaught — it means there is power to be harnessed for the betterment of our democracy and country.   

We heard from a young voter in North Carolina who made clear students weren’t going to stand by as gun violence ransacked the country, and Cristina Ramirez of NextGen America about how young voters are key to democracy’s survival in Pennsylvania.

RUN AAPI’s Linh Nguyen discussed how Democrats’ stunning 2022 performance — built in large part on the backs of young voters — should serve as a wake up call for previous generations. Texas lawmakers have taken note of this youth voting power, but have sought to stymie it rather than embrace a new voting bloc, a foolish move. The same could be said for Latino Texans, who now are the biggest demographic in the state. 

Fighting for Representation in the Courts

Attorneys are fighting in court for minority voters, who continue to face discriminatory barriers in the voting process. A Mississippi lawyer along with the executive director of Mississippi Votes detailed the state’s back and forth battle with felony disenfranchisement, a relic of white supremacy that is silencing the voices of thousands.

Brenda Murphy of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking the strike down of South Carolina’s racially gerrymandered congressional map, emphasized that redistricting must allow for fair representation, accountability and transparency — a mandate that will be decided by the nation’s highest court next year.

Election Administration Can Make or Break American Democracy

It’s the little things in life that matter. So why wouldn’t that be true of elections, too? Republicans have realized that administrative hurdles to the ballot box really add up. 

By removing avenues for funding and returning to outdated election practices like hand counting, Republican officials have targeted election administration every step of the way. 

The Institute for Responsive Governance’s Sam Oliker-Friedland wrote about the chronic underfunding of our elections and its devastating impacts on election officials. Guest authors also shed light on the underutilized tools that can protect democracy in red states, explained the problems with hand counting on a large scale, used data to peel back the curtain on ballot measures and introduced a revitalization of the Voting Rights Act in Congress.

The Courts! The Mayhem! The Horror! And The Protections They Offer

Every level of our court system keeps us up at night in the best and worst ways.

The U.S. Supreme Court stunned many in the political world when it ruled in favor of pro-democracy litigants in the Court’s two highly consequential democracy-related cases. The future of redistricting in the U.S. rested in part on the cases, Moore v. Harper and Allen v. Milligan, the stakes of which political science professor Nick Seabrook laid out in February, before the decisions came down.. In Moore, the court rejected a fringe Republican legal theory and upheld a key part of the Voting Rights Act in Allen, paving the way for a fair map in Alabama, but also in Louisiana as told by Louisiana Progress’ Peter Robins-Brown.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the courts, however. Anderson Clayton, the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, exposed the state’s Supreme Court for its brazen attack on democracy after its new overwhelming Republican-majority issued a trio of devastating rulings for voting rights and redistricting. 

Guest Contributors Found Their Niche and Ran With It

Rakim Brooks of Alliance for Justice wrote everything and anything there is to write about the courts. Brooks questioned long-standing Supreme Court norms, exposed the Court’s extreme conservative takeover and previewed the future of courts in the U.S., from contrasting alternate visions to advocating for a robust lower court judiciary.

Democracy Docket guest contributor Katy Shanahan dominated the Ohio beat, extensively covering the ballot initiative debacle and more. She continuously tracked Ohio’s treacherous, and ultimately unsuccessful journey to fair maps, mostly at the hands of state Republicans, but with some help from Democrats too, done in the face of widespread opposition from Ohio voters.

Lawyer and sheriffs expert Jessica Pishko tackled a little discussed intersection of democracy, radical sheriffs who are part of an “all-white boys club.” They have refused to enforce state law, backed racist sentiments and dangerously spread conspiratorial immigration theories. 

Charlotte Hill of the Democracy Policy Initiative at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy wrote about how structural reforms, big and small, could help change democracy for the better. A national popular vote instead of the Electoral College could increase the perceived legitimacy of the president, uphold the core American value of one person one vote, rid the U.S. of disastrous minority rule and more, she argued.

Mobilizing young voters, easing the voter registration process, ensuring adequate time to vote and expanding mail-in voting are also needed reforms in the eyes of Hill.

Perhaps our most prolific guest author and Democracy Docket’s founder, Marc Elias, stayed on top of the constant and ever-evolving threats to democracy. Former President Donald Trump was also front of mind, from his historic indictments to his deeply concerning plans for America’s future. And despite eerie developments like the rise of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Republicans’ continued voter suppression, Marc was thankful for the many wins democracy scored in the courts this year.

Democracy Docket’s guest writers brought you all there was to know this year on voting rights, elections, redistricting and democracy in the courts. We are excited for them to do the same next year and in years to come.