Miles Rapoport

Miles Rapoport is a longtime democracy advocate who served as secretary of state in Connecticut, and president of both Dēmos and Common Cause. He is the Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center of the Kennedy School at Harvard and a member of the board of The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Election Reforms Really Mattered in 2018

A new report analyzes the features that define states with high turnout rates.

Donald Trump gets a lot of the credit for boosting nationwide turnout out in the 2018 midterms. So, too, do the energetic political campaigns run by so many challengers, and the unprecedented levels of mobilization conducted by a diverse array of grassroots organizations. But another major factor was the significant number of positive policy changes in how elections are run. Driven in part by tenacious grassroots activists over the last fifteen years, many of those reforms provided new opportunities for people to register and vote. A new report, “ America Goes to the Polls 2018 ,” points the way toward voting reforms that should be high on the agenda for progressives seeking an expanded electorate and a democracy that truly works for all Americans. The report, based on the newest compilation of officially reported figures compiled by Professor Michael McDonald of the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, ranks the states in terms of turnout, and measures...

New York’s Democracy Reform Bill, and the Message It Sends

After decades in which all reforms were stymied, the new legislature enacted sweeping changes to voting laws on its second day in session.

On one remarkable day—the second day of the legislative session—the state of New York took a great leap forward in how elections will operate in the state. The voting reform bills, which passed through both legislative Chambers in a single day, will open up new and wide opportunities for people to vote, and catapults New York from being at the back of the pack (and almost the only blue state there) to close to the front when it comes to expanding voting access to everyone. For years, New York had been notorious for laws that effectively diminished voting, lest state residents realize that they could actually vote against incumbents. Alone among the 50 states, New York actually conducted two different primaries—one for federal offices, another for state—on two different days, a sure-fire way to confuse voters and fragment the electorate. As well, registration closed weeks before the election days, so if a challenger’s campaign managed to gain some traction...

Tuesday’s Verdict on Voter Suppression and Gerrymandering

In numerous states, voters elected new governors and legislatures, and passed ballot measures that could reverse the Republicans’ war on democracy.

While all eyes are on the new contours of Congress and the Trump tremors, the composition of state legislatures, governorships, and secretaries of state has changed significantly as well. The new landscape offers possibilities for a series of structural reforms in our democracy that can help change the game for the long haul. In 2011, immediately following the Tea Party wave, Republicans in many states went to work to cement their political control. Extreme gerrymandering, attacks on labor unions, and efforts to limit the ability of people to vote were all part of their playbook. Those voter suppression efforts were highly visible in 2018. Gerrymandering certainly saved a number of Republican congressional seats, and barriers to voting and active voter discouragement had significant impact especially in Georgia, but also in Texas, Florida, and a number of other states. In the states where Democrats made gains, they should not and will not attempt to mirror these cynical efforts. But...

Beware of Complicated Restructuring

Although I am a friend of Ben Page and Marty Gilens and a fan of their tireless work on behalf of equality and democracy, their article “Making American Democracy Representative” has limited appeal for me. I agree with some of their proposals, but I disagree with others. I also disagree with a fundamental premise of their approach, and instead favor a more feasible alternative path to making American politics more democratic. I do support their first proposal, ranked-choice voting, and admire the work that reformers have done in Maine to implement ranked choice under difficult political circumstances, though it is not the only way to address the problem of spoiler candidates. Fusion voting—that is, allowing cross-endorsements of candidates by multiple parties—has some of the same effects. Fusion in New York, Connecticut, and a few other states has enabled third parties, including the Working Families Party, to have major influence in elections without being...

Movement in the Fight for Voting Rights Restoration

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
On January 23, Floridians for a Fair Democracy announced that the Second Chance Voting Restoration Amendment has qualified for the November 2018 ballot, with over 1.1 million petition signatures submitted and over 760,000 certified. The amendment will be Question 4 on the ballot. The measure would allow people convicted of most felonies who have completed their sentences—including parole, probation, and any restitution required—to have their voting rights automatically restored upon completion. The amendment would specifically exclude people convicted of murder or sexual offenses. This is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by a broad coalition of organizations and constituencies, including democracy advocates, civil rights leaders, conservative religious organizations, and a number of law enforcement officials. Among the leaders were the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and the ACLU. This success is also an indicator of the importance of felony...