Our Work

In our theory of change, we believe that, in order to achieve racial equity in our representative democracy, communities of color must have the organizational capacity to achieve high levels of civic engagement AND they must lead efforts to transform our electoral systems.

Understanding Representation Challenges

Impact on Representation
Electoral systems play a crucial role in translating voters' preferences into political representation, significantly influenced by British colonial history in the U.S.
Common Electoral Systems
The most prevalent types of elections for legislative bodies in the United States include plurality, winner-take-all elections, utilizing either single-member districts or at-large by numbered position.
Barriers for Communities of Color
Electoral systems often act as obstacles to political empowerment for communities of color through strategic redistricting ("packing" and "cracking") and the maintenance of at-large elections in areas with polarized voting.
Thwarted Political Influence
These practices undermine the ability of communities of color to elect their preferred candidates, affecting their political influence and representation.

"You Can't Play The Game If You Don't Know The Rules"

While legal protections under the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) are still available, leveraging VRA claims is costly, limited in scope, and have been severely undermined. Under Section 2, the practice of drawing maps that unfairly dilute the voting strength of protected classes is illegal.

However, lawsuits under this provision are only pursued those with significant resources, take years to complete, and rely on segregation for typical remedies. Further, Section 5, which required jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to get pre-clearance for elections changes from the US Department of Justice, was gutted by the 2013 SCOTUS decision, Shelby County v. Holder, making VRA remedies even more out of reach.

Without voting rights protections, altering electoral systems requires navigating complex processes in "home rule" jurisdictions, including community engagement and significant logistical efforts.

Advocates must gather substantial support through valid signatures and run effective ballot measure campaigns to initiate change.

Success in changing the system necessitates educating voters on the new electoral process and motivating new candidates to participate in elections.

Advance State Voting Rights Protections

With both California and Washington passing landmark voting rights legislation, advocates have a framework for providing stronger protections than Section 2 of the federal VRA. MED will connect with state and local organizations promoting civic engagement in communities of color and determine the need for and structure of state-level voting rights protections. If relevant, MED will work with these communities to foster coalitions, provide trainings, and resource efforts to advance these protections.

Build Capacity Through Census & Redistricting

The upcoming decennial Census presents a major challenge to equitable representation for communities of color and low-income communities. In response, the philanthropic sector and state/local government are stepping up their efforts support a complete count. MED will partner with base building groups to channel this one-time infusion of resources to build long term organizing capacity in places where changes to representation are potential.

This includes building relational organizing tools to track census engagement, conducting GIS research to identify geographies that may be subject to protections under the federal Voting Rights Act, and educating stakeholders about the upcoming redistricting process and electoral systems reform.

Support Local and Statewide Electoral Reforms

Efforts to reform electoral systems at the state level benefit tremendously from adoption of similar changes in large counties and municipalities. More Equitable Democracy will provide technical assistance to grassroots activists that includes strategic planning, meeting facilitation, coalition development, fundraising, and training.

This assistance will lead to stronger coalitions centered on racial equity and help attract broad-based support across communities to advance bold solutions to our broken system, particularly ranked choice voting and proportional representation.