Clear all

54 results found

reorder grid_view

A Course Correction for Homeland Security: Curbing Counterterrorism Abuses

April 20, 2022

In the wake of 9/11, Congress established a new cabinet agency with a singular mission: to keep the country safe from terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) brought together 22 agencies with disparate functions under one roof. Two decades on, it struggles to carry out its work effectively and equitably.With the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress tasked the new department with keeping the country safe from terrorist attacks. DHS carved out a role for itself in two main areas: partnerships with state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities and screening of travelers and immigrants.Section I of this report identifies the agency's counterterrorism collaborations with state and local authorities and private firms. These programs have routinely surveilled American Muslims, traumatizing entire communities and casting them as hotbeds of terrorism. DHS agents have deployed these very tools against protestors, activists, and journalists.Section II turns to travel and immigration screening programs. DHS has accumulated vast stores of information about people who travel into, out of, and over the United States. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), among other DHS components, use this data to draw inferences about them, document their movements, and subject them to warrantless searches and interrogations. Agents do all of this without suspicion of potential wrongdoing. Unsurprisingly, reports of religious or ethnic profiling are common.Section III analyzes DHS's oversight infrastructure. Three primary offices — the Privacy Office, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) — have curbed some of the department's transgressions. But they have allowed many other civil rights and civil liberties violations to continue.Finally, this report identifies five avenues for reform: stronger safeguards against profiling; better protections for privacy and free expression; rigorous evaluations of program efficacy; meaningful transparency about data holdings and the implications DHS programs have for civil rights and civil liberties; and more robust internal oversight. Forthcoming Brennan Center reports will delve into these recommendations in greater detail.

Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy (2022 State of Black America)

April 13, 2022

Factions of state and federal lawmakers, working in concert with shady political operatives and violent extremists, are dangerously close to dismantling American democracy and establishing autocratic rule.The National Urban League's 2022 State of Black America report, "Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy," outlines the conspiracy and the urgent case for a national mobilization to protect and defend our most sacred constitutional right.Using data and analysis from research partner, The Brennan Center for Justice, this year's edition of The State of Black America exposes the four main tactics employed in the plot: gerrymandering, voter suppression, misinformation, and intimidation.

Local Election Officials Survey (March 2022)

March 10, 2022

As American democracy finds itself under assault from lies about the 2020 presidential race being "stolen", election officials are a prime target in the attempt to undermine future elections. This poll of local election officials around the country shows how damaging the sustained attacks against them and their colleagues have been, putting apolitical election administration and our democratic system in serious danger.

Rethinking Civic Engagement

February 16, 2022

Civic engagement is a key indicator of adulthood. Young adults respond to the social and political issues of the day in a variety of ways. After the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, young people demonstrated against racial injustice in more than 10,000 peaceful protests around the country. That fall saw record numbers of youth turn out for the presidential election; half of eligible voters ages 18–29 participated, compared with 39 percent in 2016. Climate change likewise catalyzed young people, as nearly 30 percent of Generation Z and Millennials made donations, contacted public officials, volunteered, or protested, surpassing Generation X and Baby Boomers. Young people are commonly assumed to be disengaged, disillusioned, and uninterested in civic life. These trends challenge that proposition.Civic engagement is an important part of our democratic society, and it is a meaningful part of young people's healthy development and transition into adulthood. This report explores the concept of civic engagement and the distinctive, and sometimes unaccounted for, ways that young people participate in their communities to improve social conditions, voice their needs and concerns, and uphold democracy.

Voting Laws Roundup: February 2022

February 9, 2022

As the 2022 state legislative sessions begin, lawmakers have already introduced more new restrictive voting legislation than at this time last year. They have also continued to introduce bills designed to undermine the electoral process.

The Politics of Judicial Elections, 2019-20

January 25, 2022

In 2019–20, state Supreme Court elections attracted more money — including more spending by special interests — than any judicial election cycle in history, posing a serious threat to the appearance and reality of justice across the country.Thirty-eight states use elections to choose the justices who sit on their highest courts, which typically have the final word in interpreting state law. Over the past two decades, the Brennan Center has tracked and documented more than $500 million in spending in these races.This unparalleled spending speaks to the power and influence of state supreme courts, which often fly below the public's radar. The current political moment only heightens the stakes. In 2020 alone, state supreme courts ruled on everything from ballot access and challenges to election results to governors' emergency orders concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, state courts are playing a crucial role in the ongoing redistricting cycle, including resolving disputes about racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering and even drawing electoral maps in some states.States have a wide range of tools to mitigate the harms documented in this report, including eliminating Supreme Court elections or limiting justices to a lengthy single term in office, providing judicial candidates with public financing, strengthening disclosure rules, and adopting recusal and ethics reforms. The 2019–20 cycle underscores that the challenges posed by modern supreme court elections are not going away — and that the need for action is urgent.

Redistricting: A Mid-Cycle Assessment

January 19, 2022

As mandated by the Constitution, every 10 years congressional seats must be reapportioned and each state must redraw its congressional map. With the 2021–22 redistricting cycle now well underway, slightly more than half the states have completed the process. Already, this cycle appears to be one of the most abuse laden in U.S. history. There are a few notable bright spots, but in many states, racial discrimination and extreme gerrymandering are once again prolific.Predictably, many of this round's biased maps achieve their skew at the expense of communities of color. Over the past decade, communities of color accounted for nearly all of the country's population growth. But in redrawing boundaries, Republican map drawers, especially in the South, haven't just declined to create any new electoral opportunities for these fast-growing communities; in many instances they have dismantled existing districts where communities of color won power or were on the verge of doing so. This brazen attack is unprecedented in scale. In state after state, Republicans are claiming that they are drawing maps on a "race-blind" basis and then defending the resulting racially discriminatory maps on the basis of partisanship, cynically exploiting the loophole left when the Supreme Court declared that federal courts were off-limits to constitutional challenges to partisan gerrymandering. If courts are not willing to carefully probe the intersection of race and politics, the ruse may just succeed.Democrats have tried to counteract Republican gerrymandering with aggressive line drawing of their own, but the playing field is not level. Republicans control the drawing of 187 congressional districts in this redistricting cycle; Democrats just 75. If, in the end, the cycle does not end up a wholesale disaster for Democrats, this will largely be attributable to three factors: the unwinding of gerrymanders in states like Michigan with reformed processes, court-drawn maps in states where the redistricting process has deadlocked, and litigation in states where state courts, unlike their federal counterparts, will hear partisan gerrymandering claims.However, the story of the 2021–22 redistricting cycle isn't yet written in stone. As bad as many of the maps drawn thus far are, Congress could upend gerrymandering and racial discrimination by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. If Congress acts quickly enough, it may even be possible to make changes to maps in time for the 2022 midterms. The bill would transform a broken map-drawing process by giving voters powerful new tools to fight both racial and partisan discrimination, including a statutory ban on extreme gerrymandering that would eliminate the loophole states are using to defend racially discriminatory maps. But time is running out. The 2022 primaries soon will be well underway in much of the country, and in short order courts will likely conclude that it is simply too late to make changes to maps for this election cycle.

Intergenerational Civic Learning: A Path Toward Revitalized Democracy

November 18, 2021

Generational divisions all too often mark political fault lines, but they can also catalyze mutual learning and democratic renewal. Civic intergenerationality is an approach to civic learning grounded in coming together across the life span to create a social and political reality that supports people of all ages. It operates under the assumption that all people are assets to our community, are capable of civic learning, and would benefit from it. By embracing the practice of civic intergenerationality, we can address America's ongoing civic crisis. We can create a community of lifelong, reciprocal learners that uplifts our youngest civic agents while leveraging the experiences and wisdom of older generations

The Election Sabotage Scheme and How Congress Can Stop It

November 8, 2021

This paper briefly catalogs recent election sabotage legislation and the status of those efforts and explains how they threaten our democratic system. Specifically, there are four categories of legislation to sabotage the electoral process: (1) legislation to give state officials the power to change or reject election results; (2) legislation to give partisan state officials the power to seize control of the election administration and vote-counting processes; (3) legislation to restrict, control, or punish the conduct of local election officials; and (4) legislation to make it harder to vote.The paper then details the most significant legislative solution: the Freedom to Vote Act (FTVA), a transformative voting rights and democracy reform bill that would thwart most election sabotage efforts. The Freedom to Vote Act includes provisions targeted at specific election sabotage threats. But its core voting rights provisions would also defang election sabotage laws. By establishing clear, enforceable national standards on issues such as early voting, vote by mail, and the counting of ballots, the Freedom to Vote Act would deprive partisans of the discretion to suppress or discard legitimate votes. It would also deprive partisans of the raw material that underlies their phony claims of fraud whenever marginalized communities are given fair access to the ballot. Partisan election boards, for example, could not claim that counties had improperly allowed people to vote by mail if they were merely following unambiguous federal requirements. The same is true for vote-counting standards. Congress must act quickly and decisively to blunt the election sabotage scheme before it gathers more momentum at the state level.

Representation for Some: The Discriminatory Nature of Limiting Representation to Adult Citizens

July 29, 2021

Every 10 years, political districts at all levels of government are redrawn to make sure they are equal in population as required by the U.S. Constitution.1 Currently every state apportions representatives and draws congressional and state legislative districts on the basis of a state's total population.2 That is, when districts are drawn, all people living in the state, including children and noncitizens, are counted for the purposes of representation.However, some Republican political operatives and elected officials aim to unsettle this long-standing prac[1]tice by excluding children and noncitizens from the popu[1]lation figures used to draw state legislative districts.3 Rather than count everyone, states would draw districts based only on the adult citizen population.Making such a break with current practice and prece[1]dent would be of dubious legality and would leave states vulnerable to a host of legal challenges. It also would have major practical implications for redistricting. This study looks at what such a change would mean for representa[1]tion and the allocation of political power in the United States by focusing on its impact three demographically distinct states: Texas, Georgia, and Missouri.

Guns and Democracy

June 29, 2021

Recent armed protests in legislatures and in streets across America show that guns can do more than inflict physical injury — they can threaten the public sphere on which a constitutional democracy depends. It follows that gun regulation can do more than prevent physical harm — it can also protect citizens' equal claims to security and to the exercise of liberties, whether or not they are armed and however they may differ by race, sex, or viewpoint.

Beyond Law and Order in the Gun Debate: Black Lives Matter, Abolitionism, and Anti-Racist Gun Policy

June 29, 2021

In 2020, millions of Americans mobilized for racial justice and police accountability under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. The diverse range of their demands notwithstanding, activists overwhelmingly called for the decentering (if not also defunding) of police as the go-to institution for solving problems of crime, broadly reflecting the anti-racist politics embraced by the contemporary criminal justice abolition movement. Recognizing that American gun policy has often deepened the reach of the criminal justice system amid the war on crime's broad ambit, this article considers how abolitionist approaches -- and the broader scholar-activist work in which they are embedded -- challenge the traditional coordinates of gun politics and gun policy and provide a framework for forging an anti-racist gun politics. Putting criminal justice abolitionism into conversation with existing community-led efforts that decenter the criminal justice apparatus in gun violence prevention, this essay examines gun abolitionism as a means of revamping dominant visions of safety and justice from an anti-racist perspective -- and reformulating the leading approaches to gun policy accordingly.