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Changing Power Dynamics among Researchers, Local Governments, and Community Members: A Community Engagement and Racial Equity Guidebook

June 22, 2022

Increasingly, local governments seek to partner with research institutions to understand and undo their legacy of racist policymaking and other aspects of structural racism. This legacy includes historical and current policies, programs, and institutional practices that have facilitated white families' social and economic upward mobility and well-being while creating systemic barriers to the mobility and well-being of families of color.This toolkit highlights community-based approaches that can catalyze equitable public policy, programs, and investments by centering a community's expertise. Our aim is to equip local government agencies and their research partners with the tools needed to transform practices, structures, and systems by joining the highly collaborative processes of racial equity and community engagement. The toolkit is designed for local governments but also for researchers and policy experts who partner with local governments.

All Safe: Transforming Public Safety

June 16, 2022

Following the nationwide protests that erupted in response to the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks, in late 2020 People For the American Way, Covington & Burling LLP, and the Avalan Institute for Applied Research partnered to develop a blueprint for reducing police violence. While systemic overhaul will also require action at the state and federal levels, at the local level, executive, legislative, and judicial authorities can take steps immediately to reduce police violence.The goal of All Safe: Transforming Public Safety is to provide concrete policy proposals for the transformation and implementation of public safety programs at the local level. Our research focused particularly on the 20 US cities or metro areas with the largest proportion of Black residents. Most of the research in this report was updated as of early 2022. Newer developments in data or policy may not be reflected.This report provides a range of policy options, recognizing that not every locality will be able to move immediately to the most aggressive approach. Our expectation is that, as localities begin adopting these proposals and gather and develop additional evidence of their effectiveness, these confirmations will strengthen the political case for going further.

The Nightmare Continues: Title 42 Court Order Prolongs Human Rights Abuses, Extends Disorder at U.S. Borders

June 16, 2022

On May 23, 2022, the Title 42 policy was set to end. For more than two years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had used this Trump-era policy to block asylum at U.S. ports of entry and to expel asylum seekers to grave dangers without allowing them to apply for U.S. asylum. However, on May 20, 2022, a federal court in Louisiana preliminarily enjoined decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to terminate its prior Title 42 orders, and the court directed the U.S. government to continue the Title 42 disaster. At the same time, a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prohibiting DHS from using Title 42 to expel asylum-seeking families "to places where they will be persecuted or tortured" went into effect on May 23.Despite these seemingly dueling Title 42 judicial decisions, DHS retains clear authority to except individuals from Title 42 and remains obligated under U.S. refugee law and binding treaty commitments not to return anyone--whether a family, adult, or child--to persecution or torture, as the legal rationale of the D.C. Circuit Court decision confirms.However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the border enforcement arm of DHS, continues to turn away people attempting to request asylum at U.S. ports of entry without screening for asylum, stranding them in Mexico facing life-threatening dangers. DHS also continues to expel people who cross the border between ports of entry to grave danger in Mexico, Haiti, and other countries of persecution from which they fled without allowing them to apply for asylum or asking fear screening questions.This update is based on interviews with 74 asylum seekers conducted by Human Rights First researchers in Ciudad Acuña, Nuevo Laredo, and Piedras Negras, Mexico in late May 2022 as well as additional remote interviews in June 2022; information from legal services and humanitarian aid providers across the border region; observations from outside the Del Rio, Eagle Pass, and Laredo ports of entry; publicly available U.S. government data and information; as well as media and other human rights reporting.

Americans’ Views of Government: Decades of Distrust, Enduring Support for Its Role

June 6, 2022

Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand Americans' attitudes about U.S. government. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,074 U.S. adults in April and May 2022. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. 

Preparing for Ballot Paper Shortages in 2022 and 2024

June 6, 2022

The U.S.-China trade war, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war have spurred upheaval and uncertainty in an increasingly interconnected global market. Product shortages and soaring prices are fixtures in national news headlines; American voters rate the economy as their top concern for the 2022 midterm elections. Supply chains won't only be on the ballot this November, they'll also shape how and when Americans get their ballots to begin with.Paper is foundational to American election administration. Yes, the paper needed for our beloved "I Voted" stickers—but also the paper that is used to create ballots, ballot envelopes, voter registration forms, and other essential elections collateral. Voter-verified paper ballots, the gold standard of secure elections, typically require high-quality paper types. Ballot materials demand specialized production, intentional delivery, and secure storage.Long-term trends, exacerbated by recent market factors, have put the supply of paper for the midterm elections at risk. Paper orders that once took days or weeks are now taking months. Costs have increased by 40% or more.This report by the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Elections outlines three challenges for election administration created by the global paper shortage: supply, timing, and cost. Within each category, the task force offers actionable recommendations for election officials and policymakers on how to administer secure elections amid supply chain disruptions both in 2022 and future elections.

Trump on Trial: A Guide to the January 6 Hearings and the Question of Criminality

June 6, 2022

President Joe Biden legitimately won a fair and secure 2020 presidential election--and Donald Trump lost. This historical fact has been uncontroverted by any evidence since at least November 7, 2020, when major news outlets projected Biden's victory. But Trump never conceded. Instead, both before and after Election Day, he tried to delegitimize the election results by disseminating a series of far-fetched and evidence-free claims of fraud. Meanwhile, with a ring of close confidants, Trump conceived and implemented unprecedented schemes to--in his own words--"overturn" the election outcome. Among the results of this "Big Lie" campaign were the terrible events of January 6, 2021--an inflection point in what we now understand was nothing less than an attempted coup.With Congress undertaking landmark hearings on all of that, this report is a comprehensive guide to the proceedings. It covers the Committee's work to date, the key players in the attempt to overturn the election, the known facts regarding their conduct that are expected to be covered at the hearings, and the criminal law applicable to their actions. The report is intended to help readers evaluate all those proceedings going forward.

Scoring Federal Legislation for Equity: Definition, Framework, and Potential Application

June 6, 2022

Federal legislation is fundamental to building a nation in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Since our nation's founding, in many ways, federal legislation has created and exacerbated racial inequities, leaving one-third of the population experiencing material poverty and preventing our democracy from realizing the promise of equity. To ensure the federal government serves us all, we must accurately understand and assess whether every policy advances or impedes equity. The Equity Scoring Initiative (ESI) exists to establish the foundation for a new legislative scoring regime. By scoring for equity, we can begin to create an accountable, responsive democracy.

Creating Safe and Vibrant Communities for All New Yorkers

June 2, 2022

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) released its budget report, Creating Safe and Vibrant Communities for all New Yorkers, a community-driven rebuke of the mayor's proposed FY23 budget. Mayor Eric Adams' proposed budget has been heavily criticized and condemned by community members across the city for continuing regressive and failed policing patterns of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations and further bloating the NYPD budget while crucial community services receive comparatively microscopic investments. According to CPR's budget report, the mayor is proposing the largest-ever NYPD budget -- $11.2 billion, with minuscule investments in community-led violence prevention and intervention solutions that actually work.

Approaches of International Courts and Tribunals to the Award of Compensation in International Private Property Cases and Implications for the Reform of Investor-State Arbitration

June 1, 2022

As the amount of compensation being awarded in investment tribunals rises, this report analyzes how it is calculated in other international courts and tribunals to help inform reform processes that seek to address the negative socio-economic impacts of investment treaties.In recent years, investor–state arbitral tribunals have awarded increasingly high amounts of compensation to foreign investors, which can exacerbate the negative impacts of investment treaties on people and the economy in host states. This paper contributes to discussions on how to address this issue by comparing approaches used to award compensation in investment tribunals with those used by some of the most active and/or high-profile international courts and tribunals in international private property claims cases.From this comparative analysis, the paper identifies the following options for states and other proponents to consider when considering investor–state dispute settlement reform:Crafting new treaty language that requires investor–state arbitral tribunals to apply a different standard of reparation to customary international law or provides greater guidance on how to put such standards of reparation into practice.Requiring investor–state arbitral tribunals to engage more with the decisions of domestic mechanisms regarding reparation for investment treaty breaches.Encouraging parties to seek agreement on matters of reparation, including through negotiated or mediated settlements following arbitral decisions on the merits.Encouraging—or requiring—greater use of tribunal-appointed experts to reduce reliance on party-appointed experts when calculating compensation for investment treaty breaches.

The Case for Requiring Federal Contractors to Disclose Their Secret Political Contributions

May 26, 2022

For more than 80 years, those negotiating or performing federal contracts have been prohibited from contributing to federal candidates or parties and from giving to other entities for political purposes.The Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission made the contractor contribution ban relevant again. The decision permitted corporations to spend money to influence elections -- in unlimited sums -- as long they did not coordinate with federal candidates or parties.Although many expected that the decision would spawn political expenditures directly by corporations, most of the new political spending resulting from it has been by third-party entities, such as super PACs and 501(c) nonprofit groups.Contributions to super PACs must be publicly disclosed. But 501(c) groups are not required to disclose their donors. This gap in disclosure requirements has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in "dark money" political spending.The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has generally interpreted the contractor contribution ban as applying to gifts to super PACs, and it has taken several enforcement actions against contractors for giving to super PACs. But the FEC has not deemed the contribution ban to apply to gifts to politically active 501(c) groups. This is arguably inconsistent because some 501(c) groups spend money to influence elections in the same manner as super PACs. Further, some 501(c) groups even transfer their money directly to super PACs that they work in concert with.The public has a particularly profound interest in learning of cases in which businesses seeking taxpayer funds are spending money to influence their votes. A requirement that federal contractors disclose their electioneering efforts would help shine a light on these companies' payments to shape the playing field on which they play and, in the process, might flush out bad actors seeking refuge in the shadows.

What Counties and Cities Can Do To Curb Gun Violence in Texas

May 25, 2022

Gun violence presents a significant challenge in Texas, approximately half of whose residents own a firearm and where a person is killed with a gun every two hours. High levels of gun ownership coupled with Texas' high rate of gun violence create a danger to public health.According to Rand Corp., an average of 46 percent of Texas residents owned a firearm from 1980 to 2016. However, this percentage likely increased after 2020, when the country saw a surge in gun sales associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, estimates suggest that 32 percent of U.S. adults owned a firearm by the end of 2020. Texas is also home to numerous federal firearm licensed (FFL) dealers. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicates that as of January 2022, the state had almost 10 percent--5,089--of all FFL dealers in the country. Studies also report that thousands of gun shows6 are organized in Texas every year.

Ranked choice voting finds success in Utah in 2021

May 24, 2022

Voters in twenty Utah cities used ranked choice voting (RCV) for their local elections in 2021 as part of the state's RCV municipal pilot program. An additional three cities opted in to the pilot program but did not have enough declared candidates to need ranked ballots.Ranked choice ballots elected mayors and city councilors with broad support from the electorate, voters overwhelmingly chose to use the ranked ballot to express multiple preferences, voters reported that they liked using RCV, election integrity was upheld as results were confirmed in a recount, and state legislators have continued to express support for the program.