Strengthening American Democracy

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MacArthur today announced 18 grants totaling more than $9 million to support efforts to increase access to voting, secure and modernize voting systems, and reduce the influence of money in politics.

One of the largest of the grants – $1 million to the Georgetown University Law Center – will support the establishment of the Voting Rights Institute, a collaborative effort among Georgetown, the American Constitution Society, and the Campaign Legal Center to help protect the right to vote in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to nullify part of the Voting Rights Act. The Institute will train attorneys in voting rights litigation and empower ordinary citizens to improve voting access in their communities by challenging discriminatory practices.

MacArthur has been supporting efforts to strengthen democracy in the United States, given the widespread view that the political system has failed to adequately address major issues confronting the nation. The focus has been on three primary issues: protecting voting rights, improving voting administration, and reducing the impact of money in politics. MacArthur began this time-limited focus in 2011 with a goal of strengthening democratic institutions and practices, leading to better public policies that address the nation’s most critical challenges. The Foundation has since committed more than $17 million to these issues.

“We have been pleased to support some of the leading organizations in this field and to help buttress their critical work on behalf of American democracy,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “About half of all eligible voters now live in states with online voter registration; there is heightened vigilance about potentially discriminatory voting laws; and there is more data and reporting on the role of money and politics than ever.” 

With this final package of grants, MacArthur has supported critical projects, programs and organizations working on voting rights, voting administration, and money in politics through three election cycles. MacArthur’s more than 35-year commitment to a stronger democracy will continue through support of journalism, including investigative reporting, nonfiction multimedia, and projects designed to support critical thinking and informed action on contemporary issues and problems.

In addition to the grant for the Voting Rights Institute, the following grants were awarded:

  • American Civil Liberties Union, $1.8 million to support the Center for Equality, which addresses issues affecting the voting rights of America’s most vulnerable citizens including immigrants, people of color, and the poor
  • Advancement Project, $500,000 to support its Voter Protection Program and Right to Vote initiative
  • Brennan Center for Justice, $600,000 to support its Democracy Program that advances federal and state reforms focused on voting, money in politics, redistricting, and fair courts
  • Campaign Finance Institute, $150,000 in general operating support for its work researching and publishing data regarding campaign finance issues
  • Campaign Legal Center, $500,000 in general operating support for its work to reduce the influence of money in politics and support unrestricted access to voting
  • Center for Responsive Politics, $500,000 in general operating support for its work collecting, analyzing, and publishing millions of campaign contribution records
  • Common Cause Education Fund, $500,000 to support its efforts to promote modernization of voter registration systems and fair and representative redistricting processes
  • Demos, $225,000 in general operating support for its work on voter registration and reducing the influence of money in politics
  • Every Voice Center, $225,000 in general operating support for its work supporting alternative models for financing political campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels
  • Justice at Stake, $600,000 in general operating support for its work insulating courts from political pressure, educating the public about the importance of fair and impartial courts, and increasing diversity on the bench
  • NEO Philanthropy, $500,000 to support legal, organizing, and public education work focused on protecting voting rights in states formerly covered by the Voting Rights Act
  • MapLight, $450,000 in general operating support for its work collecting, analyzing, and reporting on campaign contributions
  • Pew Charitable Trusts, $500,000 for the Pew Election Initiative, which supports elections officials in their efforts to conduct fair, accountable, and open elections

Strengthening American Democracy