Our Impact

Since 2016, we have achieved meaningful progress in our efforts to defend the rule of law, protect elections and public discourse, and shape the democracy of tomorrow.

A few highlights

In service of our mission we have…

Filed litigation resulting in a $148 million defamation verdict against Rudy Giuliani; a court order blocking vigilantes from intimidating Arizona voters; and a ruling that Donald Trump can be civilly sued by Capitol Police for the events of Jan. 6

Worked with Congressional leadership to shape bipartisan Electoral Count Act reforms enacted in 2022 to prevent a future Congress from overturning election results

Been credited by Time Magazine as part of the “campaign that saved the 2020 election” by halting efforts to interfere with and overturn the results, and by curbing disinformation

Delivered key takeaways from the Jan. 6 Committee to 95+ million Americans; polling shows this truth-telling helped educate 2022 midterm voters who rejected election deniers

Built an election monitoring team and software that supports dozens of Republican and Democratic officials in protecting 155 million public voter records in 24 states

Generated 25,000 stories about democracy issues in top-tier outlets, and briefed 750 reporters and editors; for example, statements we organized from thousands of Department of Justice alumni have driven multiple national news cycles

We’ve built a cross-ideological team of experts, partners, and advisors. 

We formed in late 2016, recognizing that the global wave of authoritarianism had begun to erode American shores. We have since assembled a team of 120+ experts who have served under Democrats and Republicans and in the senior ranks of other nonprofit, political, or media organizations. Our team includes lawyers, policy experts, legislative advocates, media strategists, writers, data analysts, and software developers. In 2023, our team received a Skoll Award for Social Innovation and a MacArthur Fellowship.  

Our mission is not partisan. We build coalitions of conservatives, moderates, and progressives who put aside politics to defend the principles of democratic government and the rule of law. For instance, our litigation has challenged actions by Democratic and Republican officials, because our policy positions remain the same regardless of who is in power. Similarly, our VoteShield software and team support election administrators regardless of party affiliation. 

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We do not accomplish our mission alone. Instead, we form programmatic partnerships, including a Harvard Law School clinic, pro bono relationships with the nation’s leading law firms, and by collaborating with, representing, or serving as co-counsel to dozens of leading national and local groups and actors. 

We have crafted an organizational strategy informed by an advisory board of leading experts on how democracies die at the hands of modern autocrats. This expertise and holistic focus on how to recognize and confront the Authoritarian Playbook has shaped our unique approach.

We helped the nation navigate an autocratic presidency 

In our first four years, we helped prevent the worst-case scenarios of an autocratic presidency. We deployed a series of strategic interventions — from litigation to technology solutions to media engagement — to help our institutions respond to and withstand authoritarian-minded efforts to interfere with election systems, undermine the rule of law, and abuse presidential powers. Learn more

“Protect Democracy has cast itself in the role its name suggests: defender of America’s system of government against the threat of authoritarianism… [they] have notched some big wins… They realized that there was no single organization doing what they were talking about: safeguarding basic principles, like checks and balances, and the idea that no one is above the law, against a perceived threat to democracy itself.”

We have since raised the barriers against future autocrats

The threats to democracy run far deeper than any one election cycle or candidate. The present assault on our democracy did not materialize overnight, and we have recognized from our earliest days that the autocratic faction that is threatening American democracy is a symptom, not the cause, of the larger wave of global authoritarianism. So even after our nation accomplished the rare feat of democratically removing an autocrat from power, our work has helped secure three major wins designed to impede authoritarian tactics:

1. Bipartisan congressional reform of the Electoral Count Act

We built a broad, cross-ideological coalition to advocate for updating the Electoral Count Act (ECA), which governs the process of casting and counting Electoral College votes for president and vice president — and which, prior to being reformed, suffered from dangerous gaps and ambiguities that a future Congress could have abused to overturn election results.

Beginning prior to the 2020 election, Protect Democracy and the National Task Force on Election Crises publicly identified the urgent need for ECA reform. According to Greg Sargent, the Task Force “wrote one of the earliest blueprints on how to reform [the] ECA, and it helped shape a whole lot of folks’ thinking after that.”

Sen. Klobuchar (D) and Sen. Blunt (R) open a September 2022 Senate Rules Committee meeting on the Electoral Count Reform Act. The Committee advanced the legislation on a bipartisan 14-1 basis. Protect Democracy and our broad coalition advocated for several years for bipartisan Electoral Count Act reforms. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Alongside a broad coalition, we shared our reform recommendations in countless media stories and engaged directly with lawmakers across the ideological spectrum. Crucially, our coalition’s calls for reform prompted first Senator Susan Collins and then several additional Republican Senators to come out openly for updating the ECA. This led to the creation of a bipartisan working group in the Senate — over the course of 2022, we then provided extensive technical assistance to members of the working group from both parties.

Ultimately, with widespread bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) was signed into law in December 2022. The final legislation addressed each of our coalition’s top priorities, and in retrospect appeared to closely track the blueprints we had shared almost a year prior.

“The extraordinary Protect Democracy team… were the backbone of the [ECA reform] effort from the very beginning. Without them, there would’ve been no ECRA, period.”

2. Maximizing the impact of the January 6 Committee

With a coalition of democracy reform groups and former national security officials, we pushed — directly on the Hill and in print and on TV — for a national body to investigate the root causes of the January 6 insurrection and to recommend reforms to shore up our institutions. 

Following the Select Committee’s creation, our coalition provided fact-finding, communications, and legal support to bolster the Committee’s efforts. This included organizing academic and civil society groups to provide fact-finding resources to the Committee’s investigative counsel; testing and refining messaging to help translate the Committee’s work in ways that reached Americans still uncertain about January 6; supporting messengers across media who defended the Committee’s investigative authorities; and filing multiple briefs on behalf of bipartisan former lawmakers to push back on dubious claims of executive privilege that would have undermined the investigation. 

Footage from a June 2022 gathering outside the U.S. Capitol to watch Rep. Cheney (R), Vice Chair of the January 6 Select Committee, present findings during the Committee’s first public hearing. Protect Democracy provided extensive support to bolster the Committee’s truth-telling. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

After the Committee began its public hearings, we then worked with partners to ensure that its truth-telling and public education efforts were as impactful as possible, including by:

  1. Recruiting former members of Congress and other former senior officials to distill the committee’s findings to the media in states ranging from Arizona to Wisconsin and in outlets from NBC to Fox News;  
  2. Launching a media campaign featuring Mike Pence’s former national security adviser to communicate the importance of accountability to 95+ million listeners; 
  3. Arranging multiple pre-hearing press briefings featuring former high-level officials, including ​a former Defense Secretary, Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs; 
  4. Organizing retired military officers, business leaders, and former members of Congress, in addition to our own team, to speak directly to the public on critical issues being investigated by the Committee; and 
  5. Developing a pre-hearing guide and post-hearing primer with Just Security to aid the media in effectively covering the Committee’s public hearings. 

After the midterm elections, The New York Times wrote that what “prevented, in this cycle, the worst fears for the health of democracy” was a “consequential slice of the electorate [that] broke with its own voting history to reject openly extremist… candidates.” That piece cites polling we conducted with Citizen Data in key states showing that nearly fifty percent of respondents said the Jan. 6 Committee hearings impacted their midterm voting, including a double-digit share of Republicans and Independents who split their ticket.

“The House committee… made the cause of democracy matter to voters [linking to Protect Democracy polling and analysis]. Its revelations surely encouraged the defeat of numerous MAGA election-deniers, helping protect our political system against future subversion.”

3. Establishing a legal deterrent against anti-democratic lies 

Law for Truth, our project to create legal accountability for election disinformation, has brought defamation lawsuits on behalf of Georgia election workers, a postmaster in Pennsylvania, an Arizona election official, and a Georgia voter and father, all of whom have suffered online and offline threats due to false stories about election fraud.

Two of our clients, Ms. Ruby Freeman and Ms. Wandrea’ “Shaye” Moss, received the Presidential Citizens Medal and testified to the January 6 Committee on behalf of election workers harmed by The Big Lie. To date, we have prevailed against every attempt by defendants to throw out our lawsuits. And we have attracted extensive media coverage of Law for Truth — which increases its deterrent effect by providing a high-profile reminder that, as David French wrote in The Atlantic, “defamatory claims have consequences.”

Ruby Freeman is pictured here issuing a statement to the media in December 2023 after a jury awarded Ms. Freeman and her daughter, Ms. Moss, more than $148 million in the defamation litigation that Protect Democracy brought on their behalf against Rudy Giuliani. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Our efforts are yielding results: for instance, a federal jury awarded our clients, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, $148,169,000 in damages in December 2023 in the defamation lawsuit we brought on their behalf against Rudy Giuliani. Along with being a step toward justice for our clients, the verdict establishes a nationally prominent example of accountability. As Politico wrote, it is a “whopping judgment… intended to deter [Giuliani] and others from engaging in similar smear campaigns in the future.”

“Protect Democracy currently has five defamation suits on the go against individuals and outlets who propagated election denial… The lawsuits are designed in part as a strategy of deterrence… Already the legal pain is mounting.”

And we’ve made substantial additional progress since 2020

“Protect Democracy is the most important guard dog of democracy’s red lines.”

Our work is not over

Our nation’s last presidential election saw an attempt to subvert the people’s will and violently prevent the transfer of power. History teaches that “a failed coup is practice for a successful coup.” Troubling signs abound: from the wave of state-level election subversion legislation to the avalanche of abuse against election workers, as well as judges and prosecutors, to The Big Lie of a stolen 2020 election enthralling nearly seventy percent of Republican voters, more than three years after January 6.

In response, our experts and advocates are using litigation, legislative and communication strategies, technology, and research-based analysis to confront and overcome the threats. We have a plan for protecting a free and fair election in 2024. 

Federal legislation

We achieved our top priority, Electoral Count Act reform, to prevent Congress from overturning election results.

State legislative campaigns

We advocate against harmful bills and in favor of bills that facilitate voter access and protect elections officials.

Engaging pivotal actors

We assemble coalitions to influence key state-level electoral actors not to unlawfully override election results.

Accountability as deterrence

We build accountability for wrongdoing, particularly through litigation, to create consequences that deter future abuses.

Countering disinformation

We deter the spread of anti-democratic disinformation through high-profile defamation lawsuits and judgments.

Litigation to protect voting

We use legal tools to combat threats including voter intimidation and efforts to undermine election administration.

VoteShield technology

We monitor 155+ million public voter files in 24 states for interference or errors that could prevent voter participation.

Strategic media

We brief the media to help shape public awareness, including via the National Task Force on Election Crises.

Our solutions are designed to go deeper than surface-level, because we take the long view: The danger to democracy is global and structural, and we are running a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why we have also begun to shape the democracy of tomorrow, by:

“They’ve done a lot of work to really stop some of the worst abuses or potential abuses during the last few years, but they also recognize that this is a longer term challenge… how we sustain American democracy over the long term… they have been and will be working on [that].”

Protect Democracy is not designed to exist forever. Our mission ends when elections are free, fair, and trusted; checks and balances guard against authoritarian overreach; facts and honest disagreement, not disinformation, shape public opinion; and the U.S. is back on the path to a free, pluralist, resilient, and multiracial self-government.

Until then, protecting democracy requires a generational effort; it’s an urgent calling we all need to answer. If we stand shoulder to shoulder, we’ve got a fighting chance at handing a more perfect union to the next generation. We’re just getting started — join us.