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ACLU finds inspiration from the NRA for a new politician rating system

Find out how your representative has voted since early 2017.


Joseph Knoop


Published Jul 15, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 11:09 am CDT

The National Rifle Association has long been known for its annual grading of major politicians on the issue of the 2nd Amendment. As of February, 52 U.S. senators have an A-minus rating or higher, indicating a strong support for pro-2nd Amendment groups and NRA-backed legislation. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has often criticized the NRA, is taking a note from the gun group by instituting its own political rating system called “ACLU Voter,” according to a report by Buzzfeed.

In effect, the new rating system mimics the NRA’s tactics of giving each major politician a rating that illustrates how often they vote along with the organization’s official views.

Voters can enter their address into a search box, which then presents information on both state senators and your House representative. I entered my address here in Illinois and got information on Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Rep. Robin Kelly—all of whom are Democrats. Both Kelly and Durbin scored above 80 percent, which means they’ve largely voted in agreement with ACLU positions, while Duckworth received a 62 percent rating.

Judging from the ACLU’s full report, this is because Duckworth did not oppose legislation reauthorizing the FISA act and did not oppose a human trafficking bill that the ACLU said was both ineffective and violated certain free speech rights. Voters can share the ratings on social media, and the page even alerted me that Kelly is up for reelection, giving voters a heads up that their current rating may carry more weight than usual. Voters can see the individual votes on each issue as well.

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ACLU Voter

The ratings are compiled from data gathered since January 2017, meaning legislation passed before then may not be reflected in the score.

“We talk about the NRA often here,” ACLU National Political Director Faiz Shakir told Buzzfeed. “Not because we agree with them, but because they have effectively created an organizational model around the single issue they care deeply about. They make their members and volunteers feel like they have a duty to vote.”

The NRA has experienced some amount of success with its own rating system, using it to pressure conservative politicians to cater to single-issue gun rights voters. That system has backfired in recent months, however, as some Democrats are using their low NRA ratings to illustrate how they’re fighting against gun violence in America.

The ACLU, meanwhile, has experienced a large increase in membership since the election of Donald Trump, going from 400,000 members to 2 million and going from a few million dollars in donations per year to more than $120 million since the election.

H/T Buzzfeed

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*First Published: Jul 15, 2018, 6:30 am CDT