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Demos is a United States-based public policy organization that works on social, economic and political equity issues.[2] It was founded in 2000 and has been described as presenting a liberal[3][4] view on policy issues. The organization's focus includes election reform, voter rights and voter registration, civic engagement, financial reform, and sustainable economics.[5]

Small Demos logo.png
MottoAn equal say and an equal chance for all.
Formation2000; 19 years ago (2000)
FounderCharles Halpern, David Callahan, Stephen Heintz
TypeThink tank
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, United States
Sabeel Rahman
$14,672,624 (2018)[1]


A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze progressive change. The name "Demos" is derived from the Greek word "ὁ δῆμος" meaning “the people” and is the root for the word “Democracy." [6]


In the late 1990s, Demos was conceptualized by Charles Halpern, President of the Nathan Cummings Foundation (1989–2000). Halpern wanted to create a counter-argument to the growing influence of the many right-wing think tanks and establish a multi-issue organization that would focus on progressive policy development and advocacy. David Callahan, a Fellow at the Century Foundation, and Stephen Heintz, Vice-President of the EastWest Institute, joined Halpern in helping to found Demos. Founding Board members included Arnie Miller, of Isaacson Miller, an executive search firm; David Skaggs, a Colorado Congressman; and Barack Obama, then an Illinois State Senator.

In March 2000, Demos opened its first office in New York with Stephen Heintz as President. In this first year, Demos’ work focused on two issues: (1) economic inequities in America and the growing prosperity gap and (2) increasing civic participation and developing a more inclusive democracy. These two areas continue to be a large part of Demos’ core work. Demos’ work became especially relevant after the 2000 Presidential Election's voter complications increased concern about the efficacy America's election systems.

In 2001, Stephen Heintz stepped down and was replaced by Miles Rapoport, Connecticut legislator (1985–94) and Secretary of State (1995–98) with a background in social-change advocacy and community-building.

In March 2014, Rapoport left Demos to become the President of Common Cause.[7] Heather McGhee, formerly the Vice President of Policy and Outreach, became President of Demos.[8] McGhee is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. On July 17, Demos named Sabeel Rahman, an award-winning scholar, author and teacher from Brooklyn Law School, as the new president.


According to their website,[9] Demos currently has three broad goals: 1. Achieving true democracy by reducing the role of money in politics and guaranteeing the freedom to vote 2. Creating pathways to ensure a diverse, expanded middle class in a new, sustainable economy, and 3. Transforming the public narrative to elevate the values of community and racial equity.

Campaigns and PartnershipsEdit

The Campaigns and Partnerships Team at Demos contains three programs.

• Through Campaigns we seek short-to-medium victories on key democracy and economic justice issues in close collaboration with allies.

• Through Partnerships we build long-term, transformational relationships and pursue strategic movement interventions with national and state-level allies to align and pursue our shared vision for change.

• Our Political program works to ensure Demos is a key resource for groups mobilizing unprecedented civic participation in this “resistance” climate; and through Demos Action works to build the long term progressive governing power necessary to achieve our multi-racial populist economic and pro-democracy agenda.

The team works with more than 30 partners on campaigns as part of our Inclusive Democracy Project and is a leading member in many strategic coalitions. The program aims to reduce big money in politics, make voting more accessible, build transformation power for the New American Demos, and transform the public dialogue to one that demands equal opportunity and voice to everyone regardless of their race, where they live, or how much money they have. Demos works to ensure democratic and economic reform is driven by people of color led grassroots organizations.

Among our partners: • In New York, Demos works with Community Voices Heard, which is a multi-racial organization made up primarily of women of color and low-income families in New York State.

• Demos supports the Working Families Party in Maryland, which as its name suggests fights for the state's working families

• And Olé New Mexico wants to enrich and empower their states families who work hard.


Demos is involved in voting rights litigation and advocacy across the country from New York to Arizona, and in places like Ohio and Tennessee related to failure of states and counties to update voter registrations, voter roll purging, language access, and felony disenfranchisement. Their work affects millions of voters. Their lawsuits include:

• In Florida in one of the largest lawsuits of its kind, Demos asked a federal judge to order the state of Florida and local election officials to provide Spanish-language ballot materials in 32 counties that have sizable Puerto Rican populations, who are protected under the Voting Rights Act. There are 143,000 voting age citizens of Puerto Rican descent in the counties. Untold numbers were displaced to the state after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The judge ruled in Demos’ favor.

• In Arizona, Demos filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State for blatant voting rights violations. The state's failure to update voter registration addresses threatens to deprive thousands of Arizonans of the right to vote. As many of 500,000 Arizonans voters could be affected. Separately, Demos is negotiating with state public assistance agencies, like those that provide food benefits and cash assistance to families, provide voter registration opportunities as required by federal law.

• Demos filed a lawsuit against Missouri for failing to comply with federal voting rights law that ensures Missourians have access to voter registration and that their registration records are accurately updated. In 2016, more than 750,000 people moved within Missouri—245,000 to another county. Every time one of these individuals reported a change of address with the state motor vehicle agency, their voter registration information should have been updated to reflect their new address unless they requested otherwise.

• Demos’ case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute went to the Supreme Court, and it was one of the more consequential decisions of the term. Ruling 5-4 against Demos, the high court found that the process by which Ohio removed voters from the polls – targeting citizens who hadn't voted in two years and purging them if they did not respond to a mailed notice or to vote over the next two federal election cycles – did not violate the National Voter Registration Act. As The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin noted, “Lawmakers in Republican-controlled states will see the Husted decision as an invitation, hydraulic in its force, to launch even more invasive purges of disfavored voters. It’s an invitation that many are likely to accept.” Demos is continuing to litigate this case, however, because the notice the state sent to targeted voters failed to adequately inform them how to avoid being purged. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has endorsed our argument, writing that “Ohio has, for years, been removing voters from the rolls because they failed to respond to forms that are blatantly non-compliant with” federal law.

• In a win for Indiana voters, a District Judge granted Demos’ motion for a preliminary injunction and blocked a new state law that would have allowed voters to be purged using the Kris Kobach program Crosscheck immediately beginning July 1, 2018. Crosscheck's identification formula is flawed, and results in millions of people being falsely flagged as double registrants.

Fellows ProgramEdit

The Demos Fellows Program develops and sustains fellows from diverse backgrounds, who produce books, research and commentary to shape a more vibrant and informed public conversation about policy. The Emerging Voices Initiative nurtures the careers of exciting young thought leaders, particularly those of color, to help address the profound lack of diversity among public commentators and to bring urgently needed new ideas into the debate.

PolicyShop BlogEdit

PolicyShop is the official Demos blog, which "strives to offer timely commentary and analysis on a range of national and state policy issues." Frequent topics of commentary include jobs, middle class economic security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Voter ID laws, campaign finance reform, and energy and sustainability.

Voter registrationEdit

The Democracy Program has worked to improve states' compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), focusing mainly on expanding voter registration opportunities at social service agencies for low income voters. Demos was part of a settlement in a lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleging Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Governor Bob Taft, and their predecessors failed to protect the fundamental rights of eligible Ohio voters to cast a meaningful ballot, as required by the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[10] This settlement is binding and requires the state to provide for uniformity and consistency in Ohio election procedures so that the opportunity to vote can be enjoyed equally by all Ohio citizens.[10]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Demos FY2018 Form 990" (PDF). Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  2. ^ "About Demos - Demos".
  3. ^ E.g.,
  4. ^ "Unabashed Radicals: The mission of Demos, Elizabeth Warren's favorite left-wing group". Retrieved 2019-09-23.
  5. ^ "Issues - Demos".
  6. ^ Herbert, Bob. "Demos, A Voice of Reason". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  7. ^ "Former Connecticut Secretary of the State Miles Rapoport to lead Common Cause". 14 January 2014.
  8. ^ Dick, Jason; Dick, Jason (28 January 2014). "Meet the New Boss at Demos - Downtown Moves". Roll Call.
  9. ^ "An Equal Say And An Equal Chance For All". Demos.
  10. ^ a b Rosenfeld, David (November 8, 2011). "Righting the Voting Income Gap". Pacific Standard. Retrieved July 5, 2016.

External linksEdit