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

The Vote Rocks

The last day of the election season, I am seized with the same anxieties that so many people are. But we should also take note of some major positives in this election, which are already true, regardless of Tuesday's outcome. They confound some of the accepted critiques of our democracy and create a base to build on for the future. The first and most important is that we are headed toward reversing -- perhaps in a really big way -- the 30-year decline in voter participation that set in after Vietnam and Watergate. A staple of pessimistic analysis of our democracy has been that people just don't care, so they don't bother to vote. Well, not this year. A CBS poll of likely voters taken Sunday indicated that 25 percent have already voted, and estimates of turnout as high as 75 percent in Florida and 80 percent in Connecticut have already been made. The imagery of people waiting in line to vote, undeterred, four days out, is striking and important. The Federal Election Commission...

Solve Inequality with Democracy

We both work in New York City, where the deepening inequality documented in the preceding articles is palpable in everyday life. Housing prices in Manhattan recently reached an average of $1 million, a cost that requires annual earnings of about $400,000 to amortize. Looking at the country as a whole, CEOs in the financial sector receive compensation packages in the tens of millions, about 500 times the median household income. Meanwhile, working families struggle to find public schooling for their children, increasing numbers of ordinary people endure two- and three-hour commutes in a desperate search for housing they can afford, the average worker's pay packet has shrunk in real terms since 1979, and the poverty rate has returned to that of 1973. And it is people of color who are disproportionately affected. Our system is entrenching inequality rather than promoting broad upward mobility. As this series of articles has shown, economic and political inequality are mutually...

Ballot Boxing

Six months after the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) -- whose passage was sparked by the disputed 2000 presidential vote -- became law, the action on election reform has shifted to the state level. State governments are now charged with implementing the legislation, and while that poses the danger that some states will take the opportunity to cook up new methods for voter suppression, it also offers advocates of election reform the best chance in a long time to improve the way elections are carried out in the states. The issue of election reform has unfortunately received little attention as the drama has moved out of Washington and into state capitals. But the dangers and opportunities presented by HAVA make it a topic that liberals ignore at their own peril. When HAVA -- which earmarked $3.8 billion to the states over the next three years for improvements in voting technology and election administration -- passed in October of last year, its complications and contradictions...

Restoring the Vote

T he disenfranchisement of people convicted of felonies is one of the great exclusions of civic life in the United States. The problem's dimensions are large and growing larger. As of 1998, according to the Sentencing Project's groundbreaking 1999 report Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States, 3.9 million Americans were barred from voting as a result of felony convictions and a patchwork of inconsistent laws governing the restoration of voting rights. Current estimates raise this figure to 4.2 million. Almost one-third of these disenfranchised citizens are African-American men. In eight states, individuals convicted of felonies can never get back their rights. Many of the laws that keep ex-offenders from voting date back to Reconstruction--Florida's law, for instance, was passed in 1868--and are clearly intended to limit the franchise of African Americans. The Latino community is disproportionately affected as well. In recent decades, the...

Winning With Tax Reform: The Connecticut Story

I n October of 1991, 40,000 furious citizens massed in Hartford at the State Capitol, protesting Connecticut's new income tax, cursing and spitting on Governor Lowell Weicker, and threatening legislators with political extinction. One month later, Democrats in New Jersey were routed by an irate electorate in retribution for the passage of changes in the state's tax structure coupled with increased aid to education. Republicans took control of both houses of the New Jersey legislature by veto-proof margins. Both events reflected the crippling dilemma faced by progressives and Democrats in recent years: increased revenues and fair tax structures are necessary to improve the lives of people and communities and to demonstrate that government can deliver; and yet to touch the issue of taxes (other than to urge relief for the middle class) is political suicide. In state after state, severe cutbacks, scapegoating of state employees, shortchanging of cities and towns, and the general stifling...

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