President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol

Democratic Reform

At the Ash Center, we’re working to generate new ideas to reform our democratic institutions for the 21st century.

Lucas, Flickr, Creative Commons

Many of our most basic democratic institutions, from the Electoral College to Congress itself, were born in the eighteenth century when American democracy and America looked markedly different than today. At the Ash Center, we’re working to modernize and reform these institutions for a healthy 21st-century democracy.

As political polarization continues to test the strength of even our most bedrock political institutions, the Ash Center brings together scholars, practitioners, and policymakers from across the country to discuss how to protect and modernize our democracy.

Through working groups and convenings, case studies, and research projects, the Ash Center is working to identify reforms both large and small that will help strengthen the future of American democracy for generations to come.

The Latest News, Research, and Resources


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Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review

Additional Resource

Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review

As part of the Ash Center’s ongoing work examining the legal, political, and policy implications of advancing jail-based voting, Aaron Rosewood and Tova Wang examine the statutory basis for jail voting in each state.

From Crisis to Opportunity: How the City of Portland Embraced Democratic Innovation

Case Study

From Crisis to Opportunity: How the City of Portland Embraced Democratic Innovation

In this case study of democratic innovation at the local level, the authors answer the questions: Why, in 2022, was voting representation and democratic reform firmly on Portland’s agenda? Did this shift contribute to Portlanders passing Measure 26-228?

Can Higher Ed Renew Our Democracy?

Feature

Can Higher Ed Renew Our Democracy?

In new paper, Danielle Allen explores how higher ed can play a role in promoting the health of our democracy.

Elections and Voting Summer Reading List
Collage of the book covers, youtube graphics, and report covers

Feature

Elections and Voting Summer Reading List

A collection of must-reads curated by Ash Center’s Tova Wang showcases new ideas and efforts to build a more inclusive democracy in the US.

Warding off new attempts to steal an election
a photograph of protestors storming the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021

Feature

Warding off new attempts to steal an election

At the Ash Center, Lawrence Lessig, Matthew Seligman, and Ian Bassin discuss the looming threats to our next presidential election.

Moving beyond the Electoral College
Congressman Jamie Raskin speaks at an Ash Center conference on the Electoral College

Feature

Moving beyond the Electoral College

At an Ash Center symposium on Electoral College reform, Congressman Jamie Raskin makes the case that the US should finally move to a direct popular vote for selecting presidential winners.

The Electoral College: What’s to be Done
A presidential electoral in Washington State ceremonially signs an electoral college ballot

Feature

The Electoral College: What’s to be Done

During an opening panel at an Ash Center symposium on the future of the Electoral College, scholars examined the history behind how the US adopted its peculiar centuries-old system of choosing presidential election winners – and what should be done to reform or even abolish the practice today.

Symposium — The Electoral College: What’s to be Done

Additional Resource

Symposium — The Electoral College: What’s to be Done

The Electoral College is viewed as a democratic anachronism in modern day America, yet it has persisted for over two centuries despite repeated attempts to reform or abolish the institution. To understand why the Electoral College has largely remained impervious to change, the Ash Center convened a symposium of scholars, policymakers, advocates, and democratic practitioners to better understand prospects for reform and alternatives to this archaic system for formally electing the president of the United States. Below, we invite you to explore resources from this April 2024 convening held at Harvard Kennedy School.