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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 05.23.19

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

WHEN DEMOCRACY WINS, ALL OF OUR ISSUES CAN WIN

We sat down with Hilda Nucete, Deputy Director of Civic Engagement at the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, to talk about how Colorado’s robust and exemplary voting model has facilitated work on the issues that LCV members care about: conserving and defending the environment. These comments were edited slightly for clarity and concision.

On the importance of democracy reform to LCV and LCVEF's work, Nucete said:

"Well, one of the biggest ideas we increasingly understand is that those folks who are most disenfranchised in our political system are the ones suffering the most when it comes to environmental injustice and environmental degradation. There’s a clear connection between those individuals who have been historically disenfranchised and those neighborhoods that have been historically polluted and dumped on. Industries have believed that those individuals don’t have a voice and they won’t be represented, and their community won’t show up.

That is why it is so important that we’re building a full cycle of civic engagement, like with our CHISPA program at LCV, where we have a program that is civic-engagement based with community engagement and organizing."

It's clear that when our voting laws provide accessible entry points for all into the democratic process, communities are able to act on the issues that matter most to them. Nucete adds:

"This past cycle in 2018 we did a lot of voter registration work. We actually registered over 10,000 voters in the Denver metro area and Pueblo county. Pueblo is one of the communities that doesn’t get a lot of civic engagement support—not a lot of money is invested in those communities to turn out and vote, so it was such a great experience to be able to go into that community and create connections.

In general, when there are more ways for everybody’s voices to be represented, we really do have a better democracy and environment. One of the biggest values, independent of political parties, is the Great Outdoors. And it's a kind of third political rail that no one touches in Colorado because it has such great value to Coloradans. So we understand that when our community is more active and voting, the environment wins."

We’re also sharing LCVEF’s Why Voting Rights Matter document, an excellent messaging example of articulating the value of democracy advocacy through an enviro lens.

To download the resource, click here.

SHIFTING NARRATIVES: DEMOCRACY ON THE OFFENSIVE

DI partner ReThink Media has released an exciting new narrative guide: “From Defense to Offense: Shifting the Narrative on Voting Rights,” intended for all voting rights advocates and organizations seeking guidance on how to incorporate a democracy rap into their own issue campaigns. ReThink’s new guide offers the latest in message guidance, narrative tips, and data from multiple research projects.

The vast majority of Americans understand that we can only have free and fair elections if all eligible voters have equitable access to the franchise. As advocates, we know how to make this a reality. But we could better frame the fight to undo barriers to the ballot.



To quote their shorter, public version of the guide at length:

While advocates have seen success in the courtroom, the state legislature, and the ballot box, we have had less success shifting public opinion and engagement. For the past several years, the movement has been playing defense and delivering our messages on the opposition’s terrain. A ReThink analysis found that discussion of vote fraud, voter ID, and efforts to limit and make voting more difficult made up about 40% of news coverage in 2016 and 2017—far more than discussion of pro-voter policies. And because Voting Rights advocates are used to fighting legal and legislative battles to defend rights, our messaging is too often defensive. We also spend a lot of time refuting our opponents’ disinformation and the resulting negative public perceptions, which leads to adopting our opposition’s language and repeating and reinforcing their negative frames.

This guide will help you do just that. In it, ReThink breaks down key challenges we face in messaging our voting rights efforts and offers a variety of solutions to better set the narrative. There are also policy-specific examples, both for proactive and reactive proposals.

To download the full message guide, email Emma Weinstein-Levy at emmaw@rethinkmedia.org.

STATE DEMOCRACY ROUNDUP

FLORIDA—TAKE ACTION NOW

On Wednesday, May 8, Florida Governor Rick DeSantis announced that he intends to sign into law a bill that requires returning citizens whose ability to vote was restored to pay all financial obligations before voting. The change, which some are calling a modern poll-tax, was passed by Florida lawmakers as a reaction to 5.1 million Floridians voting to restore the ability to vote to returning citizens who had completed their sentences, leading to the largest re-enfranchisement measure in decades.

Right now, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and DI partner League of Women Voters are working on organizing and coordinating lawyers around strategy and assisting returning citizens with navigating the new changes instituted after Amendment 4's passage.

For more information and ways to get involved, contact Al Barrentine at al@floridarrc.org.

 

Desmond Meade, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and a key Democracy Champion in the fight for voting rights, recently made the following statement on next steps:

What is most important is that we roll of our sleeves now and get behind Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s expansive effort that will involve state and national support to register not just these individuals, but those in the communities most impacted who are often not registered. —Desmond Meade

 

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MICHIGAN

Misinformation about voting is a serious problem. The ACLU of Michigan, leaders on the Promote the Vote MI campaign in the 2018 midterms, is putting out a call to report any and all outdated and incorrect information around voting policies that have changed since the passage of Prop 3.

Last week, the ACLU of Michigan contacted the Michigan Secretary of State regarding the widespread problem of misinformation on local city and township websites and in some cases, in written material. In a very small review of websites, they found instances where voters were told they had to register thirty days prior to an election or needed an excuse to vote absentee, both of which are no longer true after the passage of Promote the Vote.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections recently admonished all clerks to remove inaccurate info from their websites! But this is just the first step in ensuring voters have accurate information.

If you see misinformation about voting in Michigan, please report it to Sharon Dolente, Voting Rights Strategist, ACLU of Michigan at sdolente@aclumich.org.

Meanwhile, state legislators continue their efforts to undermine the will of voters by attempting to use the state budget to gut the Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission established by voters last November.

Voters Not Politician's Executive Director Nancy Wang condemns this power grab, because it clearly "defies the will of the 2.5 million Michiganders who amended the state Constitution specifically to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and [who] placed it with an independent citizens’ redistricting commission."

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

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