Six of the most influential democracy reform groups are at the core of a new coalition, dubbed Fix the System, with the goal of putting more conservative and corporate muscle behind a cause that's generally dominated by progressives.
The effort comes at a time when many in the good governance movement worry their efforts are too diffuse and disconnected, and tilted too far left at a time of divided government. The hope is that, during a time of pandemic fear and economic distress, political polarization will ease enough to permit some good governance changes to muster bipartisan support.
The alliance has been in the works for months but was formally unveiled this week, along with its first public effort: getting Congress to include money to make voting easier and safer this year in the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization package.
States will get $400 million to make voting in the coronavirus presidential election easier and safer, but with almost no strings attached, under the massive economic recovery package unveiled Wednesday.
The pot of money in the nearly $2 trillion stimulus deal, on a fast track to pass the Senate by day's end with the House vote timetable uncertain, is the result of an unusually intense and coordinated lobbying campaign by some of the major players in the democracy reform movement.
While celebrating a rare victory for one of their causes, some groups nonetheless said they would seek much more money in what's likely to be another pandemic response package from Congress this spring. These groups warned the initial infusion of cash will prove insufficient to prevent justifiable anxiety about voting this fall, and that an absence of any legislative mandates will allow too much of the grant money to get spent unwisely.
States may buy hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and masks with their federal grant money for bolstering election security.
That permission was granted Tuesday by the Election Assistance Commission, the latest example of how the novel coronavirus is reshaping the exercise of democracy this year.
Kathy Boockvar has been Pennsylvania's secretary of state only 14 months, but she comes by her passion for elections honestly: She was a poll worker as a young adult, spent years practicing voting rights law, ran a credible race for Congress in 2012 and advised Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat, on the most comprehensive overhaul of the state's elections laws in more than 80 years.
That experience has given her something to say about the state of democracy reform and election security eight months ahead of the presidential election.