Modernize the Vote

Registering to vote should be modern, accurate and automatic. That’s why U.S. PIRG is working to modernize the vote by starting at the point of entry — registration — and passing policies like online, automatic and Election Day registration.

Every American — Democrat, Republican, or independent — has a fundamental right to have their vote counted. 

But these days, despite using computers, tablets and smartphones for nearly every aspect of our daily lives, nearly half our country is still using pen and paper to register to vote.

Registering to vote should be modern, accurate and automatic. But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on Election Day.

In fact, in the 2012 presidential election, it’s estimated that more than a million eligible voters tried to vote but were turned away because of registration problems. And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate. One in eight voter records on the rolls is either invalid or has serious issues, many due to human errors from processing paper applications.

We can do better. That’s why U.S. PIRG is working to modernize the vote by starting at the point of entry — registration — and passing policies like online, automatic and Election Day registration.

Our ideas are simple. You should be able to register to vote online and check or update it at any time. On Election Day, you should be able to register to vote — or fix any problems with your voting information — at your polling place. Finally, anytime you interact with a government agency, whether that’s getting a license at the DMV or updating your address at the post office, your voter registration info should be updated electronically and automatically.

This fundamental shift could add millions of eligible voters to the rolls, bringing more voices into our elections and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Doing so would also make our elections more secure, and save taxpayers money.

Each state is at a different point on the path to modernizing the vote, and should focus on the set of solutions that will get them there. States should first prioritize online voter registration, before working to implement electronic voter registration at state agencies, streamlining voter databases, and pre-registration. Together, all these steps build toward universal registration through automatic and Election Day registration.

U.S. PIRG has a long history of working on the ground to increase voter participation. Through the New Voters and Community Voters Project, we have accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge about what processes work and what barriers exist to getting citizens to the polls — as well as the local relationships we need to organize key stakeholders to advocate for modernization. Getting more people registered to vote, and getting our country further along the path toward universal registration is a key strategy for increasing voter participation.

Now is the time to act. We need to work for and win commonsense reforms to modernize our elections and strengthen our democracy.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

On 7th Anniversary of Citizens United, State-Level Reforms Advance

From California to Maryland, states rethink campaign finance

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Following Backlash, Lawmakers Withdraw Ethics Rollback

On Tuesday, House lawmakers scrapped plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Measure to Gut Independent Ethics Office Advances in House

New rules announced that would strip the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics of its ability to investigate anonymous reports of wrongdoing by Members of Congress.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Contracting scandal intensifies amid fresh allegations

Case highlights need for campaign finance reforms

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Blog Post | Democracy

Cruz, Meadows propose rollback to campaign contribution limits

On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mark Meadows introduced legislation that would eliminate campaign contribution limits, allowing wealthy donors to give unlimited funds to the campaigns of their choice. The proposal by Cruz and Meadows comes on the heels of an election in which money in politics was a top voter concern.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG & Public Citizen | Democracy

Fort Myer Construction and Associates Gave More Than $130,000 to D.C. Council in Past Five Years

Top executives and their families at Fort Myer Construction – the D.C.-based construction company involved in a contracting controversy with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office – have donated at least $130,000 to 18 candidates since 2011. They used contributions from 11 sources, according to research by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Public Citizen. The case highlights the need for public financing of elections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

California legislature opens door to citizen-funded elections

 

On Wednesday, the California State Senate passed SB 1107, a bill to lift California’s ban on small donor empowerment programs, following passage in the State Assembly. Small donor empowerment programs provide limited public matching funds for small contributions to qualifying lawmakers. SB 1107 received bipartisan support from two-thirds of state legislators in the Senate and Assembly and now heads to California Governor Jerry Brown for consideration.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Convention Funding Guide Tracks Money, Donors, Fundraising Rules

A snapshot of the sources of convention funding, what contribution limits and laws apply to convention fundraising, and the impact of large private contributors.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

The Best Elections Money Can Buy

One of American democracy’s most pressing problems is that large contributions—which only a fraction of the American public can afford to make—unduly influence who can run for office and who wins elections in the United States. In 2000, 94 percent of the candidates who raised the most money won their general election contests.1 In the 2002 congressional primaries, 90 percent of the biggest fundraisers emerged victorious.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

The Wealth Primary 2002

Our analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance data for the 2002 election cycle indicates that money played a key role in determining election outcomes and that the majority of campaign contributions came from a small number of large donors (many of whom reside out-of-state).

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Contribution Limits And Competitiveness

For years, academics, political theorists, and campaign finance reformers have debated the causal relationship between campaign contribution limits and the outcome of elections. Some argue that limiting campaign contributions amounts to "incumbent protection;" others contend that limits make challengers more competitive. This study is the first of its kind to comprehensively examine the states with contribution limits and empirically measure changes in competitiveness.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

The Lobbyist's Last Laugh

Despite giving almost a quarter of a million dollars to candidates, Political Action Committees (PACs) and parties in the last election cycle, K Street did not mount a campaign against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill as it went to the floor of the Senate earlier this year. The reason lies in the fine print of the bill.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Lone Star Election Laws

Texas lags behind most states in several key areas of campaign finance law, according to a report released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Texans for Public Justice. The report, titled Lone Star Election Laws found that Texas is one of only 14 states in the country that place absolutely no limit on what wealthy donors can give a candidate. Further, Texas does nothing to cap the massive levels of campaign spending or limit contributions from out of state donors.

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Blog Post | Democracy

IRS Scandal Highlights Need for Increased Transparency in Campaign Financing

It’s up to the IRS to ensure that nonprofits are not being used as illicit vehicles to funnel untraceable money into our elections. Unfortunately, the agency’s handling of this responsibility has been thoroughly outrageous, the latest scandal being just the latest example of disturbing action—or, as has been more often the case, inaction.

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Blog Post | Democracy

U.S. PIRG Mourns the Loss of Common Cause President Bob Edgar

The movement to create a more equal and participative democracy lost an inspirational and tireless leader this week.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Youth vote surges in election | Ed Mierzwinski

In case you missed it, the Student PIRG New Voters Campaign has a release explaining that "the youth share of the electorate increased to 19 percent in 2012 over 18 percent in 2008." The PIRGs helped register over 100,000 new voters in this cycle.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Why Target is Still a Target

Two years ago, when Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel used corporate general treasury funds to support a group backing a candidate known for his outspoken anti-LGBT positions, it was more than a blemish on the reputation of a corporation that brands itself as progressive. That irresponsible contribution was a violation of both shareholder and public trust and, not surprisingly, it resulted in scandal and boycotts that threatened the assets of shareholders who never authorized the use of their money for political spending

Target learned first-hand what it should have already known: consumers and shareholders do not want corporations to muddy up our democracy by interfering with our elections, yet it has not yet adopted a policy against this spending. Today, at Target’s annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, shareholders will take a vote on a resolution to refrain from political spending to once again remind Target that corporate electioneering is bad for shareholders and is bad for democracy.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Who Owns Big Oil? We Do!

The American Petroleum Institute has a new public image campaign: http://whoownsbigoil.org. The purpose of this website, presumably, is to convince us that if we raise taxes on hugely profitable corporations we will only be hurting ourselves. Why? Because we are all shareholders of those corporations and when they are taxed we suffer.

While I am skeptical of API’s conclusions, it’s right to say we own the oil companies. In fact, shareholders across the country are demanding accountability and disclosure from the corporations that they rightfully own and the effort could be the key to slowing the flow of corporate money in the 2012 election.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG is calling on every state to establish an emergency universal absentee voting system to eliminate the need to physically go to the polls at a time where doing so could put voters’ health at risk. This would allow all registered voters to be mailed an absentee ballot if physically visiting the polls were unsafe.

News Release | Maryland PIRG

 A report released today by Maryland PIRG Foundation finds that the people and entities that donate to Maryland’s Gubernatorial campaigns are not reflective of Marylanders who are eligible to vote in these elections. The report finds that the money raised comes primarily from out of state or non individuals who contribute disproportionately large sums of money.

Report | Maryland PIRG

In Maryland’s gubernatorial elections, the people and companies that donate to campaigns are not reflective of the Marylanders who vote in these elections. On average, donors make large contributions that most Marylanders can’t afford, only a small percentage of the population is making contributions, and the majority of money comes from donors who aren’t eligible to vote in these elections. 

Blog Post

To many, Iowa caucuses seem a bit confusing, but there is something valuable about the process of caucusing. Caucussing attempts to address a real problem in American politics: limited voter choice. When you only have one vote, you often have to decide between a candidate who most closely shares your values and the candidate you think is most likely to win.  But after watching the 2020 caucuses, there has to be a simpler, better way to assess the will of the voters. Fortunately, there is, and it’s called ranked-choice voting (RCV).

Report | U.S. PIRG

After a historic run of small donor contributions to presidential candidates throughout most of 2019, U.S. PIRG found big money -- contributions greater than $200-- has reclaimed its role as the top source of fundraising for candidates. This is according to a new analysis of 2020 fourth quarter Federal Election Commission data.  

Democracy

A somber anniversary: 10 years after the Citizens United decision

January 15th marked the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, widely blamed for opening the floodgates to special interest spending in our elections. U.S. legislators joined PIRG and other pro-democracy organizations to decry the ongoing harm caused by the ruling—and to highlight the growth of the pro-reform movement. 

 

Democracy | U.S. PIRG

Small donors are driving the 2020 presidential race

For years, it has been impossible to run for office without relying heavily on large dollar donations. While big money still has disproportionate influence, a combination of technological and cultural changes have made it possible for candidates for president to run for office while relying primarily on small-donor money.

 
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