Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.21.18

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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

Flint, Michigan: training & book launch


JUNE 23, 2018

Our Democracy Champions Training in Flint, Michigan is on Saturday! After the disappointing Supreme Court decision on Ohio’s voter purging, and recent gerrymandering cases dismissed back to district courts, it’s important to remember these temporary setbacks only affect one tactic in the fight for a representative, fair, and inclusive democracy. Organizing the people, giving them the strength and the resources to agitate for change, remains a crucially important part of the fight for democracy 365 days a year.

Democracy Champions Training
Saturday, June 23rd, 2018
9 AM to 5 PM

United Auto Workers Regional Office
1940 West Atherton Road
Flint, Michigan 48507

Register for the training here.



This highly-interactive training, grounded in popular education principles, will make the connections between democracy, power, and the ability to win justice on the diverse issues that motivate our partners. Participants will learn about effective communication and have an opportunity to practice making the pro-democracy case. We ask that our partners send 2-3 participants to the training. At the conclusion of the training, every participant will be recognized and celebrated as a Democracy Champion, with opportunities for ongoing engagement.  Contact Getachew Kassa with any questions at


The AFL-CIO is delighted to host Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Flint water crisis whistleblower, one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people, TEDMED speaker and “pediatrician turned detective,” as she releases her new book, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.

Please RSVP here.

News and Action on the Border Crisis


   "Once again, this administration has shown its inhumanity and displayed incompetence at governing our country. America had a reputation of being a beacon of hope, a north star for democracy in the world. Now we have a government, enabled by many in Congress, that is incapable of providing decent family living conditions and due process for those fleeing violence and seeking asylum. We are in the middle of an international human rights crisis; an international crisis that clearly this government and Congress do not understand and are not able to manage.

  This is a complete failure of government. Instead of going through the legal process and providing the most basic of humane services to migrants, they are building tent cities for children and possibly starting permanent separation of families. At the same time, this administration has pulled us out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which was created to deal with just these kinds of human-made disasters as a global community. Over the past few days we have seen the American people lift their voices in non-partisan opposition to the separation of families. Now we must demand more, efficient, timely due process of refugees and humane treatment. In November we must be sure that we, everyday people express their values and ensure they are registered to vote and on the voting list, we must hold this administration and elected officials accountable and to a high standard of leadership."

TAKE ACTION: JOIN THE JUNE 30TH MOBILIZATION: Join the #FamiliesBelongTogether mobilization in Washington, D.C. on June 30th, or find one in your area. Thousands have already signed up to go to the White House on June 30th to tell Trump and Jeff Sessions to end their policies that break apart families. If you can't make it to DC, there will also be local events across the country. To learn more, click here.
Private prison companies are making millions from the detention of families at the southern border, and some have given generously to Trump and other national leaders. It is important to inform ourselves about how and why the connections between these events translate into real life tragedy. Read more about the prison lobby here, here, here, and here.

The NAACP on the Civil Rights Front Lines

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, says that there is a direct correlation between the racism emanating from the White House and the expansion of attacks on the humanity of persons of color. Read more here.

EVENT: Democracy Behind Bars, COMMON CAUSE

DI Partner organization Common Cause is releasing a new report on June 28th entitled Democracy Behind Bars. In prison, on probation, and on parole, 6.7 million people live under court-ordered supervision. The mass criminalization and incarceration of our communities, disenfranchises and disempowers millions of Americans, and undermines the legitimacy of our democracy. The Democracy Behind Bars report represents an effort to build on Common Cause’s longstanding commitment to serve as a watchdog on government, defend and strengthen voting rights, and ensure that the power of ideas rather than that of monied interests counts most in our democracy.

LEARN THE racist HISTORY OF "RIGHT TO wORK" surrounding janus v. afscme council 31

The Supreme Court decision on JANUS v. AFSCME Council 31 is expected soon, and could be a major attack on our ability to act and organize collectively. it’s important to acknowledge the insidious, racist roots of “Right to Work” laws. We cannot allow the anti-democracy forces that support these laws to cause a rift among working people along racial lines. Check out this excellent piece from Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Research at our partner Demos, to learn more.

The Koch attack on our democracy continues

This past Monday, Democracy Initiative and our partners Common Cause, Center for Popular Democracy, Every Voice, and Working Families were delighted to host Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. In her discussion of her illuminating book, MacLean repeatedly identified the Koch brothers and their vast national infrastructure as one of the gravest threats to our democracy; the Koch brothers and their allies’ success arises from their secrecy in changing policy at the state level to benefit themselves and their business. Her book traces the Koch strategy from its ideological roots in little-known thinker James McGill Buchanan, all the way to their current goal of calling an Article V Constitutional Convention to permanently alter the Constitution of the United States. MacLean’s book is a welcome addition to the growing awareness of the threat the wealthy few pose to the integrity of our elections and our democracy.

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields with Democracy in Chains author Nancy MacLean

An example of the kind of behavior MacLean discusses was explored by the New York Times’ Hiroki Tabuchi, who released an article on Tuesday documenting the Koch brothers’ strategy to undermine public transit at the state and local level. One of the Koch apparatus’ principal fronts, Americans for Prosperity, infiltrated Nashville in an Astroturf campaign to convince local communities of the danger of increasing funding for public transit, contrary to the widely popular campaign waged by the people of Nashville. But a cadre of “activists” appeared with an expensive, Koch-built profiling system called i360 appeared and convinced locals to opt for continuing the use of cars and roads—industries in which the Koch’s have a great stake.

But the Nashville strategy is part of a nationwide effort; according to the article, “Americans for Prosperity has coordinated door-to-door anti-transit canvassing campaigns for at least seven local or state-level ballots,” spending $711,000 last year on lobbying and $4 million in the last seven. As MacLean pointed to in her book, in order to defend our democracy, we must be vigilant when the Koch’s and other moneyed interests infiltrate our communities and undermine our self-determination—it weakens our power as people and threatens our ability to realize our vision for reflective and representative democracy, 365 days a year.

GERRYMAndering Cases REmanded

SCOTUS once again failed to deliver a definitive ruling on the issue of gerrymandering by remanding both cases before it (Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone) back to lower courts. It is expected to pick up yet another gerrymandering case (Common Cause v. Rucho from North Carolina) soon.
Wendy Weiser and Thomas Wolf of DI partner the Brennen Center for Justice wrote about the significance of these cases in the L.A. Times, saying, “There are good reasons to be optimistic. The justices did not throw the cases out of court, or say partisan gerrymandering is legal. Either or both would have been easy options if the court didn’t ultimately want to tackle the big issue.” Read more here.

TAKE action: BAltimore Fair election fund

After recent successes regarding public financing for political campaigns in Maryland, it is now Baltimore's turn. A charter amendment that has been proposed to the city council requires both the council and the mayor to sign off before it can reach voters. Call the Baltimore City Council today and let them know you want big money out of politics! Read more here.

VICtory in KANSAS! And kobach gets schooled!

Congratulations to the ACLU for bringing this case and securing a significant and symbolic victory for voting rights and popular democracy!

On Monday, Federal District Judge Julie A. Robinson of Kansas struck down Kris Kobach’s restrictive voter ID law. Kobach infamously justified his repressive voting law by citing built his entire reputation on his false claims that voter fraud committed by immigrants threatens the country. Now the premier champion of voter suppression’s own law has been repealed.

Kobach also decided to represent himself, and after committing numerous of the most rudimentary procedural errors, Judge Robinson wrote he had "a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure" requiring him to attend six hours of legal education.

Read more here.

Arab American Institute'S #YallaVote Hotline

DI partner the Arab American Institute has launched the #YallaVote Hotline for the 2018 election season.

The hotline is staffed by legal experts and both Arabic and English speakers who can answer questions and address concerns on voting day. These experts can also provide legal support to address voter suppression or disenfranchisement in your state.

Please spread information about the hotline widely, so that all voters are given the information and support needed to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The #YallaVote Hotline can be reached at 1-844-YALLA-US, or 1-844-925-5287.

Take action: support second chances florida

This Saturday, June 23, Second Chances FL are having calling parties all over the state and country to speak to Florida voters about why Amendment 4 should be passed to restore the eligibility to vote to 1.4 million Floridians. Voter Engagement Schedule Every week: Second Chances FL Phone Banking  
- Volunteer Calls: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (5:30-8:30pm ET); Saturdays (10am-1pm ET), Sundays (3-6pm ET). Here's a link to sign up .
- Adopt A Day Calendar Program: Sign-Up Here  

Every month: Days of Action
- First Week: Amendment 4 on the 4th (Digital Pledge)
- Second Week: Text Banking (Starting in July)
- Third Saturday: Super Saturday Volunteer Canvassing (Starting in July)
- Fourth Saturday: Second Chances Call Parties (Make sure to plan outreach to recruit attendees for parties on June 23)

With only 5 months left until the election, our allies supporting Second Chances Florida need our help to boost their calling program. To do that, they’re asking partners to pick a day every month for remote calling to Florida voters. You can sign up for a calling day here. Contact Jonah Minkoff-Zern at for more ways to help; follow and amplify the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

American Promise National Citizenship Leadership Conference

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields will be on the panel "Working Together: Effective Collaboration Between Groups" on 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 24th, at the American Promise National Leadership Conference. For more information and to register for the conference, which runs June 22 through June 25th, click here.



Get Engaged - See Latest Updates on the Campaigns Calendar

We are maintaining a DI campaign calendar that will include information on upcoming events and activities. Visit our website to access the calendar. Contact Elsie ( ) if you have questions.

2018 Expanded Mobilizing Meetings

Bi-Weekly on Wednesdays at 3pm EST / Noon PST

Beginning next week, on June 13th, DI’s bi-weekly Mobilizing Committee Meetings (at 3 p.m. every other Wednesday), will shift their focus to state coordination of priority campaigns, beginning with the Promote the Vote and Voters not Politicians ballot initiatives in Michigan. For more information, contact Getachew Kassa at

DI Communications Working Group

Fourth Wednesday of every month, at 1pm E.T.
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.

Next Meeting: Thursday, June 28th

Stay Connected with DI Partners

We invite partners to share a victory, recruit for actions in the fight for democracy, or let us know about a conference. Email Aimée ( to add an action for the next Weekly Update!

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