Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 01.25.18

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Grassroots in Florida Put Rights Restoration on the Ballot!

The Second Chances campaign just made history in Florida! The movement to restore voting rights to over 1.5 million returning citizens has qualified for the November 2018 ballot!

A reflective democracy starts with more people having the ability to participate. That’s how communities are able to stand up for the kitchen table issues that impact them every day and hold elected leaders accountable.

Every Floridian should have the freedom to fully participate and be represented in their government. Millions of people with a past felony conviction in Florida are denied the right to participation even after they have served their sentence. This hurts returning citizens, their families, and their communities on the issues that matter most – from housing, to jobs, to public safety, and the environment.

At the December Annual Meeting, the DI Board of Directors recognized the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, represented by Desmond Meade, for their outstanding work to advance democracy in 2017. Their work inspires all of us to make a reflective democracy a reality because the fight is about more than just voting rights in Florida. The right to vote is the cornerstone of civic participation in democracy.

The 1.1 million petitions submitted by the campaign represent the overwhelming grassroots support for a democracy where all people have the ability to effectively advocate for good jobs, fair housing, and a just and sustainable community for themselves and their families.

Share your support with sample social media and email messaging for your members.


Dissent, free speech, advocacy, and non-violent protest are all crucial, constitutionally-protected means for activists to advance our causes. And they work. Throughout history, these tools have achieved important environmental, social, and civil rights progress. That’s exactly why powerful corporations and their allies in government are using a variety of approaches to crackdown on activists -- and why activists are joining together to push back and defend our rights to non-violent democratic participation.

Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is a tool used by corporations to chill critical speech and advocacy on matters of public interest—they have been used against organizations and activists from all sectors of civil society, and most recently, and aggressively used against environmental groups. SLAPP suits act as a warning to others: speak out against us and you too could find yourself in court.

Join Greenpeace USA, Earthrights International, Center for Constitutional Rights and Stand.Earth to learn about the increasing crackdown on activism and ways to push back on the anti-democracy movement’s attempts to silence participation.

Defending Democracy: How to Defeat Legal Bullying by Corporations
Busboys & Poets
5th & K
Washington, DC
Cullen Room

January 30, 2018
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

This event is free and open to the public.

The State of the Climate Movement With Bernie Sanders & Bill McKibben - Watch Party January 31 at 7:30pm ET

After Trump's first State of the Union, join Senator Bernie Sanders and 350.og co-founder Bill McKibben for Fossil Free Fast: The Climate Resistance. Sen. Sanders and McKibben will be joined by Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement, Rev. Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, Jacqueline Patterson of the NAACP, and many more to deliver the state of the climate movement. They will share stories on the urgency of the current political and climate crisis, and how we can resist the Trump Administration's attacks on our climate.

Attend George Washington University event or join a watch party near you!

Get Ready to Pack the House for DC Fair Elections!

The second crucial vote for the Fair Elections Act of 2017 is like to be during the first week of February. Earlier this month the DC Council voted unanimously in support of a people-powered democracy that gives communities the ability to support candidates and elected officials that represent their needs, not corporate interests. We will need to secure funding for fair elections once it passes.

To date, over 5000 petitions have been delivered, over 80 community leaders and 70 organizations are signed on in support, and we have 13 council members who have said YES to fair elections either by co-introducing, co-sponsoring, or voting to advance the bill.

Contact David Sanchez at for information on how your organization can get involved.

Let’s Make Voting a Sure Thing in Michigan

On Monday, January 22, 2018, Promote the Vote Michigan launched to expand and protect voting rights for all. The Democracy Initiative is proud to endorse this campaign as part of our Democracy 365 campaign to increase participation in democracy across the United States. Promote the Vote is a grassroots campaign of individuals and organizations committed to ensuring that voting works for all Americans. When we increase the number of people that can participate in democracy, the stronger democracy is for everyone. Now is the time for secure and accessible elections for all so that every person has the ability to advocate for kitchen table issues in their community.

If your organization would like to get involved in next steps to help expand and protect voting in Michigan, please contact Getachew Kassa at

amazing Turnout in Albany, New York for voting Rights

More than 200 people attended the rally for voting rights in Albany, NY on Tuesday, January 23. The Let NY Vote Coalition also visited dozens of elected officials (Democracts and Republicans) to share a simple message: Make voting accessible to all New Yorkers.

Thank you to enter for Environmental Health, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and NAACP Legal Defense Fund for helping to amplify the need for early voting in New York. Check out our storify to see the messages shared by partners.

If your organization would like to get involved in next steps to help expand and protect voting for all in New York, please contact Getachew Kassa at Visit for more information.


Raven Keenan, DI’s communications and mobilization intern, is leaving the DI to take a full-time communications position helping homeless veterans and victims of domestic violence in Virginia.

The entire team at the DI wish Raven the very best. Thank you for all your hard work over the last 6 months.


DI Communications & Mobilization Intern

The Democracy Initiative is seeking a talented communications and mobilization intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the Director of Communications and Digital Media, the Communications Intern will assist with message development and implementation, social media engagement, and online mobilizations for our diverse issue partners. Read more and apply.

Promote the Vote Campaign Manager

Promote the Vote is a grassroots campaign of individuals and organizations committed to ensuring that voting works for all Americans. The Promote the Vote executive committee seeks a proven leader to serve as its campaign director to develop and implement a statewide campaign to pass a constitutional ballot amendment in November, 2018. This measure is designed to implement election reforms to update Michigan’s voting system and remove obstacles to participation. Candidates should have successful experience managing issue advocacy or ballot campaigns and leadership experience in statewide efforts that include coalition partnerships, lobbying, strategic communications, organizing, and electoral work. Read full job description.

Michigan Time to Care Campaign Manager

MI Time to Care is a Michigan statewide ballot campaign endeavoring to ensure all workers have access to earned paid sick time, an essential policy for helping low-wage workers stay above water financially. Currently, 70% of low-wage workers do not have access to earned paid sick time to take care of themselves or their families when they are sick. This means that when they have to stay home they miss a day’s pay and risk losing their job. It also means that many people go to work sick, which is not only a public health hazard, particularly in the case that they work with children, the elderly, or in the food industry, but also that they cannot recover as quickly and therefore are less productive at work. We are operating a statewide ballot campaign to give voters the opportunity to weigh in on this issue and to make progress for Michigan workers. The campaign is currently in the signature gathering phase. Read full job description.

Mobilizing & Collaboration

Add Your Input to the Democracy Reform Survey!

We’re ramping up our work in 2018 and we need input from you! Take a moment to fill out the engagement form to plug into 2018 campaigns and new opportunities. Your input will guide the resource and engagement decision-making process. CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT DEMOCRACY REFORM CAMPAIGN SURVEY.

Thank you to all those you have already filled out the survey.

If you would like to fill out the survey with assistance, please contact Getachew Kassa at


2018 Calendar for Mobilizing Working Group Meetings

Bi-Weekly on Wednesdays at 3pm EST / Noon PST
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Our bi-monthly meetings focus on field strategy with groups working both at the national and state level so we can collaborate and move democracy reforms effectively. All DI Members are welcome. Email with any questions!

Next Meeting: February 7

DI Communications Working Group

Monthly on 4th Thursday of every month at 1pm

The communications working group is a collaborative space for message refinement using feedback from organizations working on the ground. These monthly meetings also help to resource partner organizations for ongoing local and national campaigns and coordinate messaging and communications as a coalition.

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Next Meetings: February 22, and March 22

Popular Education – Democracy Champions Train the Trainers Wanted: Train the Trainer

February 23-24, 2018
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The DI’s “Democracy Champions” popular education program will launch in early 2018. We motivate, educate, and empower the membership of our partner organizations to support grassroots democracy campaigns to build power and advance our issues. We engage grassroots members around race and class in ways that build solidarity, reduce division, and make the link between kitchen table issues (healthcare, workers’ rights, and environmental issues) and democracy reforms (automatic voter registration, early voting, same day registration, vote by mail, and publicly financed small donor elections). Democracy Champions is a key component of building power locally. We are committed to align our popular education training with local and state campaigns.

There are three ways your organization can participate:

  • Train-the-trainer trainings for staff members/activists to become Democracy Champions trainers.
  • Host a Democracy Champion training
  • Alignment with existing membership education (aligning the Democracy Champions curriculum with an existing membership education program in your organization).

Ready to motivate, engage, and empower your members? Contact Getachew Kassa ( for more information.

Enviro Working Group

Greenpeace USA and Sierra Club held an initial meeting with environmental groups and some new DI partners prior to the start of the Annual Meeting. The meeting included Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, LCV, Friends of the Earth, Center for Environmental Health, Water Keeper Alliance, and Oil Change International. The group will hold their next meeting in January to identify and collaborate on one or two democracy campaigns as an environmental community.

If you would like to participate or have questions, please contact David Sanchez ( or Courtney Hight (

Stay Connected with DI Partners

We invite partners to share a victory, recruit for actions in the fight for democracy or a conference? Email Michelle ( to add an action for the next Weekly Update!

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