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Written by Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government

Stop the Steal rioters who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday shocked the nation by desecrating one of American democracy’s hallowed spaces. The rioters assaulted our democracy even as many of them believed they were defending it.

But the deeper ugly truth is that American democracy has few friends these days. Many — and not just on the left — correctly criticize that Americans vote at very low rates compared to most democracies, Gerrymandering distorts representation in many states, and that the six senators from California, Texas, and New York represent the same number of people as 62 senators from the 31 smallest states. Democratic presidential candidates have won the popular vote in seven out of the last eight contests, but due to Electoral College distortions, the Republican candidate won three of those elections. Without evidence, nearly seventy million Americans evidently believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Congress’s unresponsiveness to the views of most citizens for many decades, while being quite attentive to the priorities of the wealthy and presiding over the escalation of hyperbolic inequality, should dismay Americans of every persuasion. …


Why aggregate city data?

Chelsea, Massachusetts City Hall
Chelsea, Massachusetts City Hall
Chelsea, Massachusetts City Hall, where author Ashley Marcoux worked as an Innovation Field Lab Fellow digitalizing and aggregating datasets from across city departments

by Ashley Marcoux

From fire prevention in New Orleans to protecting children from lead poisoning in Chicago, there are no shortages of success stories from city governments that aggregate data to inform their actions. In New Orleans, private-public partnerships produced Smoke Signals, a data tool that gives the Fire Department block-by-block estimates of fire risk to target distributions of free smoke detectors. Smoke Signals now offers risk assessments for 178 cities across America. In Chicago, the Health Department and the University of Chicago partnered to identify properties that are most likely to contain lead-based paint to prioritize interventions and outreach. …


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A quadcopter camera drone in flight. (Josh Sorensen)

Welcome to our weekly roundup of articles and resources for state, local, and tribal leaders creating policy to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic as well as steering the social and economic recovery for their communities. Postings below do not convey endorsement of any particular organization or opinion contained in links.

Army Picks Fitbit to Develop Wearable Presymptom COVID-19 Detectors

The health and wellness wearable company plans to use the award to partner with the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research to expand testing of its internally developed algorithm.

New President, Congress Must Help Indian Country Fight Coronavirus

The relief package in March was inadequate to meet the scope of the tragedy brought about by the pandemic.

Use COVID-19 To Build Back Better, Cities Told

The United Nations urged civic leaders to build more liveable urban centres better for public health, society, and the environment. …


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Animals’ Bridge on Route 93 near Evaro, Montana, on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Sign in English and Salish language. (Vince Devlin)

Welcome to our weekly roundup of articles and resources for state, local, and tribal leaders creating policy to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic as well as steering the social and economic recovery for their communities. Postings below do not convey endorsement of any particular organization or opinion contained in links.

Tracking COVID-19’s Effects by Race and Ethnicity: Phase Two

Updates on People’s Health, Housing, and Livelihoods between August 19 and October 26.

Naval Hospitals Deploy Germ-Killing Robots Amid Pandemic

The tools are intended to provide an extra level of disinfection against COVID-19.

Pathways to the Post-Pandemic Workforce

The economic recession triggered by the global pandemic has magnified the need for high-quality programs that can help students acquire the skills, training, and postsecondary credentials they need to thrive in the workplace. …


A Story of Progress and Resistance

Written by Cecily Hines and Miles Rapoport

As Election Day approaches, one key issue, in Florida but also nationwide, is whether and to what degree citizens who have felony convictions on their records will have their rights restored and be able to vote. The picture is decidedly mixed. There has been real progress in many states, and stubborn resistance in others.

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A Democracy Restoration Act supporter holds up a sign in protest of felony disenfranchisement in 2010 (Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)

According to a recent study by the Sentencing Project entitled “Locked Out 2020”, an estimated 5.2 million people cannot vote due to felony convictions. This represents 2.3% of the voting-age population, and — dramatically — over 6.2% of African Americans will be unable to participate in this critical year. This contrasts with 1.7% of the non-African American population and 2% in the Latinx communities. Nor surprisingly, 80% of those disenfranchised are men. The rate of disenfranchisement varies by state, given the array and complexity of restrictions that exist across the country. …


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The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation brought together a bipartisan group of secretaries from the key swing states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to discuss the challenges they are facing, the pressures they are under, and what they are doing to make the November election work for the citizens of their states.

Panelists included:

Jocelyn Benson, Secretary of State, Michigan

Kathy Boockvar, Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania

Frank LaRose, Secretary of State, Ohio

Miles Rapoport (Moderator), Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, Ash Center


Early reports show signs that the massive effort to recruit poll workers across the United States is paying off, though some counties are still in need of help

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Photo Credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Written by Miles Rapoport and Cecily Hines

Six months ago, as the coronavirus grabbed hold of American society and America’s elections, a chilling question arose: Would a massive shortage of poll workers threaten the ability of voters to cast their ballots on election day?

Anyone who has ever voted knows that the poll workers up until now have mainly been seniors who volunteered for this low-paid day of work year after year. This year, however, given the ongoing risk to seniors, that pool of workers has been dramatically reduced, creating the possibility of a dangerous shortage of these critical volunteers in many counties across the country. These shortages can lead to longer lines for voting, fewer polling places, and in some cases potential health risks for voters who are voting in crowded conditions. …


View of downtown Syracuse, New York
View of downtown Syracuse, New York

Welcome to our weekly roundup of articles and resources for state, local, and tribal leaders creating policy to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic as well as steering the social and economic recovery for their communities. Postings below do not convey endorsement of any particular organization or opinion contained in links.

How COVID Accelerated Smart City Development

Many of the early hotspot cities were also at the forefront of innovation, prompting questions over how well connected cities would respond to the pandemic.

The Mumbai Slum That Stopped the Virus

Dharavi contained Covid-19 against all the odds. Now its people need to survive an economic catastrophe.

Love Your Block Pivots for the Pandemic

By making some small but important adjustments, several cities participating in the national Love Your Block City Hall VISTA program have found ways to continue reaching residents and support community projects during the pandemic. Their efforts are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement and provide lessons for other cities as they contend with COVID-19. …


Nearing Election Day, thousands of businesses are encouraging voter participation

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The Ash Center sat down with Ashley Spillane MC/MPA 2018, president of social impact consulting firm Impactual, and Sofia Gross, Ash Center Technology and Democracy Fellow 2018–19, public policy manager at Snap, Inc.; authors of Civic Responsibility: The Power of Companies to Increase Voter Turnout, to discuss how organizations are supporting voter participation this fall.

Ash: In your case study of the 2018 election, you noted over 400 companies implemented voter engagement initiatives; what does this look like now in 2020?

Spillane and Gross: The evolving growth in corporate civic responsibility programs since our case study was published last year has been really incredible to see. We can’t ignore the fact that democracy is trending right now — and the number of companies who are involving themselves in GOTV efforts has increased from several hundred to several thousand in the span of two years. …


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With his new book, Alex Keyssar tells the story of how the anachronistic institution that is the Electoral College has managed to survive to this day

About

Harvard Ash Center

A global research center housed at Harvard focused on making the world a better place by advancing excellence and innovation in governance and public policy.

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