Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 02.09.18

Friday, February 9, 2018



D.C. Council passes the Fair Elections Act of 2017! This is an important step forward for D.C. residents. Public financing empowers residents to have a stronger voice in advocating for their kitchen table issues. The bill gives small donors the ability to support local grassroots candidates who will represent their interests, not corporations and big money donors.

We celebrate this victory with the DC Coalition. Passage of the bill brings D.C. one step closer to fair elections, but we need to make sure the program is fully funded.

Celebrate this victory and urge Mayor Bowser to support full funding for fair elections!

Access the messaging toolkit with social media graphics to promote online.

Sign the petition to urge Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council to fully fund Fair Elections!


On Wednesday, a little after 10:00 am, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took the floor to express her solidarity for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Ms. Pelosi continuously spoke for over eight hours, sharing the stories of Dreamers and she vowed to oppose any measure to keep the government open passed tonight’s midnight deadline without protections for Dreamers.

Pelosi’s eight hour “filibuster” is another example how Democracy is a 365 day issue. Dreamers, who were shielded from deportation by former President Obama’s Executive Action called DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, have mobilized since Trump suspended the program late last year. Dreamers have taken to the streets and congressional offices. In recent months hundreds of Dreamers nationwide have been arrested for protesting demanding for Congress to pass a clean Dream Act. Pelosi was inspired by the demand created on the ground by the Dreamers, and took a stand on the House floor!

Call (202) 224-3121 and tell your Representative to pass a clean Dream Act!


U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker ruled Florida's arbitrary scheme for restoring voting rights to ex-felons unconstitutional. This is an important victory in the fight to protect and expand voting in Florida and across the United States. The right to vote is the cornerstone of civic participation in democracy. Judge Walker called Florida's process a clear violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


More than 1.5 million people with a past felony conviction in Florida are denied the freedom to exercise civic participation even after they have served their sentence. This hurts not only returning citizens, but their families and their communities on the issues that matter most – from housing, to jobs, to public safety, and the environment. In the Court's order it states, "In Florida, elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards. The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”  

DI partner Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed a lawsuit March 2017 on behalf of the millions of returning citizens who are denied the right to vote in Florida and subject to the Clemency Board's "arbitrary and discriminatory vote-restoration" process. While Judge Walker ruled the Clemency Board's process unconstitutional, the judge asked FELN and the other parties to come up with remedies to this process.

Celebrate victory and urge members to support second chances for returning citizens.

If your organization would like more information, please contact Getachew Kassa at


We are excited to be launching the Democracy Champions program in 2018. The goal is both simple and audacious: to create a grassroots army of Democracy Champions who will be inspired, motivated and empowered to take on strategically-targeted democracy campaigns across the country.  

The first step toward this goal is to train our first group of trainers. At the Democracy Initiative’s December annual meeting, you expressed interest in having staff and/or lead activists from your organization become Democracy Champions trainers. We would like to invite you to designate 1-3 individuals to attend the Train the Trainer in the Washington, DC area (precise location TBD). We are surveying interest for the following dates February 23-24 or March 4-5.  The February training convene the Friday evening and conclude by 2 pm on the Saturday. The March training we will convene Sunday evening and conclude by 2 pm on the Monday.  The date will be established based on majority interested. Please fill out this form letting us know which date works better for you:

Trainers do not need to be subject-matter experts. They do need to be good listeners, enthusiastic, committed, committed to 1:1 communication, and able to travel to trainings. Grassroots organizing experience is helpful. Since initial Democracy Champions trainings will be held in Michigan, Maryland, Missouri and Florida, trainers from those states are especially welcome. If you have questions, feel free to follow up with Getachew Kassa at

Please RSVP for the Democracy Champions Train the Trainer on eventbrite.  


Public Citizen is working with partners in the Clean Budget Coalition to call on Congress to pass a #CleanBudget with no poison pill riders, particularly any that threaten our democracy. DI partners are invited to join the effort to build awareness and action on these harmful anti-democracy riders through a series of actions this month.

Below is a tentative plan for engagement:

For more information on how you and your members can get involved, contact Jonah Minkoff-Zern at


Promote the Vote Michigan launched last week 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.

SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday, February 21 for a webinar with campaign organizers on how DI partners can engage in Michigan.

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



Working People’s Day of Action – February 24, 2018

On February 24, join thousands of working people and our allies and stand up for our freedom to come together in strong unions and fight. Fight for equitable pay. Fight for affordable health care, quality schools, vibrant communities and a secure future for all of us. Demand an end to a system that’s rigged against working people.

Find a local event at

Download the toolkit for the day of action via Dropbox.

Solidarity Mobilization on Janus v. AFSCME – February 24-26, 2018

DI partners will be mobilizing to stand in solidarity with public sector unions that are under attack. Anti-democracy forces are attempting to curtail freedom of association and the right to organize for millions of hardworking people. When one of us is under attack, we are all under attack. This is our opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with the labor movement to ensure all Americans can freely organize and advocate for economic and social justice in the workplace and our communities.

To get your organization involved and to learn more about the Supreme Court case, contact Getachew Kassa We will send out a special notice with the full toolkit and messaging material.


Voting is the most essential form of political expression. We invite DI partners to sign-on to a letter of support for automatic voter registration (AVR) and election day registration (EDR) for Marylanders. The Everyone Votes Maryland coalition is calling on the General Assembly to take action to ensure that all voters in the state can fully participate in democracy.

View sign-on letter. If your organization would like to support voting reforms in Maryland, please contact Getachew Kassa at


Wendy Fields and Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School, presented on The Fight for a Working Democracy to the Harvard Trade Union. Here is an excerpt of their presentation:

For the last forty years, a determined attack on our democracy has been funded by a small cadre of right wing billionaires. The leaders of this effort are determined to ensure that the decisions of government benefit the corporations and the wealthy, and they have recognized that in order to win on the substance—taxation, deregulation, shrinking government, preventing redistribution—they have to undercut the very structures of our democracy.

This assault has had four key elements: the attack on voting rights; the undermining of any controls on big money in our elections; the gerrymandering of districts for partisan domination; and—critically --the attack on the labor movement.

The DI emphasizes bringing the grassroots strength of membership organizations to bear on democracy issues. The emphasis is on educating and mobilizing the membership, so that it isn’t only a handful of policymakers, advocates, and litigators who are engaging on them.


An economic agenda that places both race and class at the forefront motivates working people of all races to engage in the civic life of their communities and our nation. Such an agenda embodies race-forward progressive values, advances the policies that will move those values into practice, and activates a broad base, including the “New American Demos” of people of color, single women, young people, and working-class Americans of all races. With it, policymakers, grassroots organizations, and other thought leaders will starkly contrast an authentic, multi-racial populism against the phony populism that divides and distracts working people today.

Everyone’s Economy includes 25 policies—from providing universal childcare to protecting consumers from high-interest debt, from promoting climate equity to ending the criminalization of poverty—that contribute to a race-forward, populist agenda. Download policy book.



America clearly needs an Attorney General who will fight for justice and equality for all, not against them. But fighting against justice and equality is what Jeff Sessions has consistently done in his first year in office. Continued efforts and vigorous oversight and exposure by the press, the public, and by Congress will be crucial in the future, as will be efforts in the courts to try to stop Sessions’ harmful agenda.

Read PFAW’s full report card.


The DI has received a number of requests from filmmakers to host and share movies. As we do not have the capacity to take on this coordination. We are looking for an organization to work with us on coordinating and assessing interest in groups hosting a film screening. As you know, movies about democracy can be great way to engage members or participants at a conference/convening.  If your organization can provide some support, please contact Elana Orbuch at


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 Michigan Campaign Manager

Promote the Vote is a grassroots campaign of individuals and organizations committed to ensuring that voting works for all in Michigan. 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
RSVP to, cc:

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 21

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.

RSVP to, cc:

Next Meetings: February 22 and March 22

Stay Connected with DI Partners

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