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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 11.30.2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

DI 6th Annual Meeting: Shifting Power & Building Solidarity to Win in 2018 and Beyond

Democracy Champions Honorees Announced

The Democracy Initiative Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2017 Democracy Champions recipients: Larry Cohen, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition , and Just Democracy Illinois. DI is awarding these individuals and coalitions for their outstanding work to advance a reflective democracy through broad-based issued focused coalition building.

The Democracy Champions will be recognized during the evening reception (starts at 4:30pm) on December 14, 2017 as part of the Democracy Initiative's 6th Annual Meeting.

RSVP for the 6th Annual Meeting.

Larry Cohen is a true visionary and tireless advocate for democracy. Through his leadership, he has brought labor unions directly into the fight for democracy reforms by making the connection between jobs, healthcare, and our environment central to expanding voting, blunting the influence of money, and creating fair representation. In 2013, Larry along with environmental, civil rights, and good government leaders recognized the need for a coalition of issue organizations to come together to advance democracy reforms in order to move critical issues facing millions of Americans. Out of those discussions the Democracy Initiative was born and we’ve been mobilizing millions and expanding democracy thanks to the vision of leaders like Larry Cohen.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) is actively working to ensure returning citizens can be full participants in their communities. The fight is about more than just voting rights in Florida. We know that for democracy to work, everyone in the community must have the ability to effectively advocate for good jobs, fair housing, and a just and sustainable community for themselves and their families. FRRC is leading this ongoing battle in Florida to restore the rights of the 1.5 million returning citizens who have been denied representation in their communities on the very issues that impact them on a daily basis from housing to jobs to healthcare. Their work inspires all of us to make a reflective democracy a reality.

Just Democracy Illinois worked tirelessly in 2017 to expand voting to 2 million eligible voters in the state through Automatic Voter Registration (AVR). The diverse coalition successfully mobilized members to engaged state lawmakers on the importance of supporting AVR. Their hard work paid off with when AVR passed the House and Senate unanimously in May, and was signed by Governor Rauner in August. Illinois became the 10th state to adopt automatic voter registration.

Join us at the DI's 6th Annual Meeting to recognize these Democracy Champions and to participate in timely discussions on race, class, and gender equity as we build an inclusive and powerful democracy movement for 2018 and beyond.

Democracy Initiative’s 6th Annual Meeting
Shifting Power & Building Solidarity to Win in 2018 and Beyond
Thursday, December 14th, 2017
AFL-CIO Headquarters - President’s Room
815 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

Opportunity to Share Your Democracy Reform Campaigns at The Annual Meeting!

As part of the Annual Meeting on December 14th, we are inviting partners to share their priority reform campaigns. The DI will put forth a set of recommendations on state and local democracy reform campaigns for 2018 and beyond at the Annual Meeting. Please take a few minutes to fill out a survey as the first step towards mapping out our collective field campaigns.


This year we would like to highlight a few campaigns at the meeting and during the reception. In addition we are excited to be able to roll out the new Field Guide to Democracy website – an interactive hub for DI partners and allies that connects activists and organizers to all the democracy reform campaigns across the country. Submit your campaign by December 8th if you want a chance to pitch your campaign during the DI Annual Meeting on December 14th. If you have any questions please contact: Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org


Floridians for a Fair Democracy has collected more than 900,000 petitions with the goal to have 1.1 million by the end of December. The deadline to gather petitions by volunteers is December 15, 2017. There are weekly days of action and the next big day of action is on December 2, 2017. Folks can also send the petition out to their lists via email for people to print and send in.

It is time to restore that ability to vote to 1.5 million Floridians who were convicted of felonies and have completed their sentences.

Here are the primary ways you can help: (sample email blasts here)

  1. Here is the link for folks to print and send in the petition themselves (and print extra and share with friends). It’s also in Spanish if helpful.
  2. Here is a link to the campaign site where people can sign up to volunteer: https://secondchancesfl.org/
  3. There will be days of action on December 2 and 9. You can use this link to help recruit hosts and attendees and to track ongoing activity throughout the month.
  4. Finally, here are some campaign approved sample email blasts and I am attaching the messaging triangle for the campaign. Please run your blast by the campaign before you send it! A good sample is below from Common Cause as well.


Florida has the most restrictive policies in the nation with respect to limiting the ability to vote for citizens who have completed felony sentences. It is one of only four states in the country whose constitution permanently disenfranchises all citizens with past felony convictions. Florida’s Voting Restoration Amendment would allow people who’ve paid their debt to society to earn back their right to vote.

If you have any questions please contact: Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.


Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre will be awarded the "Roving Ambassador for Peace" award on Tuesday, December 5th at 2:30 pm at the AFL-CIO Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The award will be presented by Father Sean Mc Manus, President of Irish National Caucus and Chief Judge, of the World Peace Prize Awarding Council. (WPPAC)

The "Roving Ambassador for Peace" award was initiated in Seoul South Korea, in 1989 by Reverend Dr. Han Min Su, a Presbyterian minister who has dedicated his life to promoting world peace by bringing together east and west representatives of all major world religions.

Light Refreshments will be served. If you wish to attend, please RSVP to fthompson@aflcio.org.

Let's Bring Fair Elections to Prince George's County - Town Hall Meeting Dec. 7, 2017

Fair Elections Town Hall
Thursday, December 7, 2017

6:30-8:30PM (doors open at 6PM)
Southern Regional Technology & Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road
Fort Washington, MD 20744

We want 100 people to attend the forum! Mobilize your members in Prince George's County to show their support for fair elections!

Join Fair Elections Maryland and Councilmembers Obie Patterson (D-8), Mary Lehman (D-1) and Mel Franklin (D-9) for a Prince George's County Town Hall!

In recent years, many residents of Prince George's County have felt that their voices are being increasingly drowned out by the flood of big money into our local elections.

Small donor empowerment programs put voters back in the driver’s seat of our elections by providing matching funds for small contributions to candidates who reject large and corporate contributions. This system allows candidates relying on small donors to compete with big money candidates by appealing to everyday constituents.

Guest Speakers:

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel (Common Cause of Maryland), Delman L. Coates, Ph.D. (Our Revolution Prince George's), Larry Stafford (Progressive Maryland), and Joe Brice, President (Prince George's Civic Federation) as moderator.

Come out to learn about the program and what you can do to help bring fair elections to Prince George's County. Email David Sanchez (dsanchez@democracyinitiative.org) for more information.

Democracy 365: Key to Progressive decision-making & Problem Solving

The Alabama New South Coalition is part of the Rural Coalition (a DI Partner). The Rural Coalition is grassroots-led by farmers, farmworkers, migrants and ingenious people working to build a sustainable and just food system. That starts by holding corporations and elected leaders accountable for the policies that impact our people as consumers and as a community.

Let’s stand together for our democracy! Take the pledge to make democracy an everyday activity so all Americans vote, all votes are counted, and leaders are held accountable to the people they represent - everyday Americans.

Mobilizing & Collaboration

Final Mobilizing Meeting for 2017

Wednesday, December 13 at 3pm EST / Noon PST
RSVP to gkassa@democracyinitiative.org, cc: eorbuch@democracyinitiative.org

Our final bi-monthly meeting for 2017 will focus on items related to the Annual Meeting as well as how we prepare for 2018. All DI Members are welcome

Email gkassa@democracyinitiative.org with any questions!

DI Launches Green Democracy Caucus

Thursday, December 14 at 11:45am EST / 8:45 PST

The Democracy Initiative is excited to launch the Green Democracy Caucus, a working group within the DI to collaborate on democracy reforms that focus on the environment. The Green Democracy Caucus is the way for your organization to collaborate with other environmental groups work in 2018 and beyond. The first meeting will be held at the Common Cause office in Washington DC from 10 am to 11:45 am on December 14th. It will be hosted by Courtney Hight from Sierra Club, Charlie Cray from Greenpeace USA, and Jacqui Patterson from NAACP.

We look forward to seeing you there, please RSVP to David Sanchez (dsanchez@democracyinitiative.org) to make sure you get the agenda and the meeting updates.

DI Communications Collaborative


Tuesday, December 19 at 4:15pm EST / 1:15 PST

RSVP to mwhittaker@democracyinitiative.org, cc: eorbuch@democracyinitiative.org

The second meeting of the Communications Collaborative was well attended. Participants reviewed initial results of an internal survey on our coalition capacity. We encourage all partners to complete the survey. Full meeting notes will be sent out next week.

DI Launching Podcast & Hosting Twitter Chat

The DI will be launching a podcast in mid-December and hosting a Twitter Chat on A 21st Century Democracy on December 15th (the anniversary of the Bill of Rights). If you are interested in participating in the Twitter Chat or being featured as a guest on the podcast, please email Michelle (mwhittaker@democracyinitiative.org) and Raven (rkeenan@democracyinitiative.org) for more information.

Stay Connected with DI Partners

Want to share a victory or call to action in the fight for democracy? Email Michelle (mwhittaker@democracyinitiative.org) to add an action for the next Weekly Update!

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