Elections 2020

Our election work in 2020 called upon all presidential, gubernatorial and legislative candidates to ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

On November 03, 2020, the United States held national elections. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate, and the office of president of the United States were up for election.

We called upon all presidential, gubernatorial and legislative candidates to ensure that human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, as guaranteed under international human rights law and standards and the country’s own Constitution should they get elected.

Policy Recommendations

We put together guidance and policy recommendations for leaders, present and future, to protect and advance human rights. Our recommendations span domestic and global spheres, ranging from regulating U.S. gun sales, to ending U.S. arms sales that fuel war crimes abroad, to building a humanitarian protection system that addresses the needs of people at the U.S. border as well as those seeking safety across the globe. 

Our thematic issue brief was informed by firsthand documentation conducted by Amnesty researchers worldwide as well as the policy expertise of our national advocates and specialists.

Presidential Candidate Forum

On February 20th, 2020 we hosted a non-partisan presidential candidate forum that took a deep dive into one of the defining issues of the election: immigration. We extended an invite to all Republican and Democratic candidates. The forum provided candidates and voters, including our members, an opportunity to address the many complicated facets of immigration policy and to allow the candidates to publicly discuss their views on immigration and human rights.

Threats of violence

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, our staff became increasingly worried about the heightened threat of gun violence facing people in the U.S., and the potential for armed intimidation of voters, as they headed to the polls. We released an advisory to prohibit guns from polling places.  

We released a report calling out law enforcement agencies across the United States for failing to facilitate people’s human right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to protect protests and counter-protests from violent disruption by armed groups among others.

Following the 2020 elections, we emphasized:

  • The failure of public officials – particularly former President Donald Trump and his administration – to condemn white supremacist ideology, racism and discrimination, which represents a grave threat to human rights and public safety.  
  • All government officials must condemn rhetoric that is intended to incite violence, intimidation and attacks by armed groups and individuals. 
  • Permissive open carry laws and armed groups pose a risk to public safety and the human rights of others. Emergency measures should be put in place to temporarily suspend open carry gun laws in public places until public safety can be assured.  
  • While everyone has the right to carry their opinion on to the streets and peacefully protest, that does not include the right to intimidate, harass, or threaten violence against others. 
  • Police must facilitate the right to peaceful protest, de-escalate tensions and not meet protesters with violence and excessive force. By exacerbating a tense situation and endangering the lives of protesters, U.S. police were failing their obligations under international law. 
Defend Freedom

We’ve been defending freedom from repressive leaders around the world for several decades. During the 2020 election we demanded that all levels of the U.S. government—including the White House, Congress, governors, mayors, state legislators, city councils and law enforcement officers—respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Read more about the Defend Freedom campaign.


We invited the 2020 presidential candidates to explain how they would address some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.

In June 2019, we gave presidential candidates the opportunity to tell us how the United States should respond to some of the most pressing human rights issues at home and around the world – ranging from the global refugee crisis to the epidemic of gun violence in our communities. 

Thirteen candidates answered our questions, but the final two active candidates gave very little information. Joe Biden did not answer our survey. Donald Trump sent us a link to his website