Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 10.10.19

Thursday, October 10, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

SENATE WATCH: "DEMOCRACY" FOR THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT

At the same time that he has deliberately rendered the Senate incapable of acting on issues facing Americans across the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has secured his own position by using his office to connect donors and supporters to his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and her staff.

“This is the way things work when democracy has been weakened. The powerful get special access to our government, while the rest of us are told, 'sorry, we can’t help you.' The Senate is ground zero for this toxic culture of special access for the rich, gridlock for everyone else.”Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative

A recent report by Politico reveals that “25% of Chao’s scheduled meetings with local officials from any state from January 2017 to March 2018 were with Kentuckians, who make up only 1.3% of the U.S. population.” Freedom of Information Act requests revealed that at least five of the eighteen meetings with Kentuckians were set up through emails from McConnell staffers, often with notes about whether the officials were friends of McConnell’s or about special favors requested of Chao.

McConnell’s ability to secure funding and power through his wife, the ethical implications aside, confirms something all Americans already understand: the powerful play by different rules than everyone else. Make no mistake: when the system rewards the wealthy and the powerful, our democratic institutions erode as a result. Because he can secure his own future through back channels, why should McConnell bother holding up or down votes on issues that matter to the country, like gun control, the environment, or income inequality? With corruption taking care of his own interests, governing becomes unnecessary to take care of the American people's. The fact that the Senate under its current rules does not govern effectively is no accident.

Impeachment may be dominating the news cycle, but we must not forget that any effort to pass transformative legislation will still need to go through the Senate, regardless of who is president. Even if Senate control changes hands, unless we do something about the Senate’s inability to govern and to pass legislation, there is no chance of enacting key legislative priorities in 2021.

DI PARTNERS IN SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKING WORKERS

Last week, more than 50 DI partners took action by signing on to a statement of support and solidarity with the 48,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) GM workers on strike. Today is day 26 of the strike, and the workers are holding the line.

We also want to recognize DI partners Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, and Oil Change International spearheaded an effort that led to a powerful, unified statement of support from dozens of environmental groups, both inside and outside the DI.

It is important that we share this powerful and important message of solidarity as widely as possible, so please share the letter with your lists and on social media.

Click here to download a graphic of the sign-on letter to share on social media.

When workers strike for their fair share and stand against corporate greed, the power of collective action is on display. We salute the DI partners who showed up for workers demanding their fair share of the wealth they created. Groups from across the country— representing members who fight for civil rights, the environment, social justice, democracy, and workers’ rights—standing behind the backbone of America is a vision of what a truly representative, equitable democracy of the people can be.

JOIN US AT THE 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

We are now accepting RSVP’s for the 2019 DI Annual Meeting! Partner organization principals and key staff are encouraged to RSVP now!

RSVP HERE

Additionally, please complete our 2019 Annual Meeting Survey to provide critical input into DI strategy in 2020 and 2021 by sharing your organization’s priorities.

The survey is also an opportunity to nominate candidates for our 3rd Annual Democracy Champions Award Reception following the meeting. The final deadline to submit nominations is Friday, October 18.

In order to submit organizational priorities and Democracy Champions nominations, please complete the Annual Meeting Survey here.

Questions? Contact Jen Lamson at jlamson@democracyinitiative.org for more information.

PARTNER CORNER

TAKE ACTION—LET NEW YORK VOTE EARLY!

On October 26, for the first time in history, New York voters will be able to vote early. The Let NY Vote coalition is organizing education events, GOTV efforts, and other activities across the state to prepare communities to vote early!

Here are two ways to get your members engaged:

CLEAN WATER ACTION ANNUAL CELEBRATION

Our partner Clean Water Action has been taking action for clean water for more than 40 years. Join them on Monday, October 28 for their Annual Celebration at the Carnegie Institution for Science to meet staff, learn more about their crucial work and see what’s planned for the coming year. For more information and to get your tickets, click here.

ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE HOSTS EMEL MATHLOUTHI

The Arab American Institute, in partnership with the Artistic Freedom Initiative and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, is pleased to welcome renowned Tunisian musician Emel Mathlouthi to the Lincoln Theater on October 17th, 2019 for a sure-to-impress performance.

Emel is one of the most remarkable voices in music today. She has performed in over 40 countries all across the globe, and was featured at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2015. NPR calls her, "the 21st Century's Catalyst for Change" and Pitchfork recently said "the World Needs Emel Mathlouthi's Anthems Against the Dictatorship Machine." Her song "Kelmiti Horra" became the unofficial anthem of the Tunisian democracy uprising and the Arab Spring.

Join AAI on October 17th and share this invitation widely with your friends. Click here to buy your tickets today.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

FLORIDA—RETURNING CITIZENS DISCOURAGED FROM REGISTERING TO VOTE

Nearly a year after the historic Amendment 4 overwhelmingly passed in the 2018 midterm elections, restoring the ability to vote to 1.4 million Floridians returning to society, voter registration forms still claim formerly incarcerated people cannot vote until their rights are restored.

Even though over 65% of Florida voters passed the law to allow those who have paid their debt to society to vote when released, the Florida Secretary of State’s office continues to use language on their registration forms from prior to the law’s passage—a violation of the law and a blatant attempt to discourage voters.

Read more here. To learn more about the work of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, click here.

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES WITHOUT ADDRESSES AT RISK FOR ELECTIONS & 2020 CENSUS

Just weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, the Supreme Court disenfranchised hundreds of Native Americans in North Dakota by ruling that voters must be registered with IDs that have street addresses. Local tribes, who often lack official street addresses and rely on P.O. boxes, were left without recourse, and many were unable to use their voices in the election. Now, indigenous people across the country fear that the states in which they reside might do the same.

The Navajo Nation alone has 50,000 unaddressed homes and businesses, with an address assignation process that might take several years to complete. Community organizers in southern Utah are currently working with Google to provide more accurate addresses using GPS technology, but relying on a private corporation isn’t a sustainable solution. Indigenous communities (especially on reservations) are consistently denied accurate representation in the US Census (last census year, 4.9% of American Indians and Alaska Natives were uncounted), and an expanding number denied their voting rights.

With one of the most important elections of our lifetimes approaching and billions of dollars in funding on the line, it is crucially important that the democracy community’s voting and census outreach include indigenous people.

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE—CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER

The Arab American Institute (AAI) is hiring a Campaign Organizer to lead AAI’s issue-based campaigns in 2019 & 2020. The Campaign Organizer is tasked with ensuring the broad participation of Arab American community members, stakeholders, allies, policy makers, and advocates to meet the goals of the campaigns. To learn more about AAI, the position, or how to apply, please visit our website or contact National Field Coordinator Heba Mohammad at hmohammad@aaiusa.org.

Established in 1985 and based in Washington, DC, the Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization created to encourage, recognize, and celebrate Arab American participation in American civic life.

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