Through litigation, public education and advocacy, NVRI seeks a better American democracy - where Americans of any financial and social status can meaningfully participate in the system. The full papers of most of our cases can be found in the NVRI Legal Library. Discussion of our work is available below.
Defending Campaign Spending Limits
NVRI has led the national effort to reconsider campaign spending limits as a constitutional means of making meaningful political participation available to all Americans. In its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the U.S. Supreme Court equated money with speech when it struck down congressional campaign spending limits on First Amendment grounds. It is that decision that NVRI has attempted to change, both through litigation and coalition building.
Challenging Barriers to Political Participation
NVRI fights to enfranchise U.S. citizens, through lawsuits in many states and jurisdictions regarding absentee ballots, provisional voting, candidate filing fees, public access to contribution records, and enforcement of campaign spending laws, among other things. Notably, NVRI represented former Presidential candidate David Cobb and Michael Badnarik in the pursuit of a full and fair recount of the 2004 Ohio presidential vote. And NVRI has represented scores of voters and candidates in other efforts.
Seeking a Constitutional Right to Vote
Underlying all of NVRI's work is the challenge presented by courts that narrowly interpret the right to vote. While voting rights advocates have through the years achieved tremendous successes, the continuing lack of a specific Constitutional right to vote hampers all of our work. Of the 119 nations in the world that elect their representatives to all levels of government, the U.S. is one of only eleven that do not have an explicit right to vote in their Constitutions. Both Afghanistan's Constitution and Iraq's interim legal document - inspired by the U.S. - contain a right to vote. Yet the states' rights nature of U.S. elections continues to lead to thousands of complaints and problems every year. NVRI is working with allies such as Rainbow/PUSH, the Center for Voting and Democracy, and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., to press for a constitutional amendment for the right to vote. More information about this work will be available soon.
You can read more about the proposed Constitutional Amendment for a Right to Vote by visiting Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s website.
We will continue to provide additional information about the Amendment as the campaign develops.
Supporting Public Funding for Campaigns
NVRI is committed to public funding for elections, believing that this is one of the best ways to ensure that meaningful political participation is available to all Americans. Sometimes our work includes defense of public campaign finance laws, and sometimes actions to ensure enforcement of those laws. For more on NVRI's many lawsuits in this area, click here.
Campaign Finance is a Civil Rights Issue
Fundamental to NVRI's principles is the overriding belief that campaign finance reform is a civil rights issue. The exorbitant amount of money in politics effectively excludes far too many Americans, and promotes racial inequality. Read about it here.
Challenging the Wealth Primary
NVRI also initiated the only Wealth Primary lawsuits in the country, challenging campaign finance laws on equal protection grounds and seeking public funding of elections. Private money is the nation's newest voting rights barrier. While the litigation has not yet succeeded, the principle is right. Read about it and our work here.