Weekly Update 02.15.18

Thursday, February 15, 2018


We mourn yet another tragic mass shooting in America that took the lives of 17 children and adults, and injured many others. U.S. Senate Chris Murphy (D-CT) put the inaction of Congress on mass shootings succinctly: Congress is “responsible for a level of mass atrocity” that is unique to America.

As the DI wrote after the Las Vegas mass shooting…

When 307 (87%) of the current members of Congress have received a combined $3.5 million from the NRA, it is clear that they do not serve the will of the people. When gun industry stock rises following a mass shooting, it is clear corporations are profiting off of people’s fears. When doctors, nurses, and hospitals are ill-equipped to treat gun victims because of a federal ban on firearms research (thanks to the gun lobby), it is clear health care is not a priority for some elected leaders.

Every American deserves to live free from violence. We must say “No more!” and show elected leaders that there is a grassroots demand for common sense solutions to stop the violence. This is our democracy.

Use this moment to make the connection with your members about how important civic engagement is to a reflective democracy.


Promote the Vote, a grassroots coalition in Michigan, launched a ballot initiative to win voting reforms that include automatic and same day voter registration and increased ability to vote through early voting and absentee ballots. The Democracy Initiative is proud to endorse the Promote the Vote campaign as one of our priority campaigns under the Democracy 365 umbrella to achieve increased access and participation in democracy across the United States.

Promote the Vote is a major opportunity to support communities in building power to both secure and accessible elections for all – but we need your help so that every person has the ability to advocate for kitchen table issues in their community!  

Join our briefing on Wednesday, February 21 with ACLU Michigan’s Kary Moss to get your members engaged in Michigan.

RSVP to Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.


A Call to Action for the Democracy Reform Community; Stand and be Counted at the Working People’s Day of Action – February 24, 2018

Winning the fight for a strong labor movement is critical to winning the fight for a healthy democracy.

On February 24, join thousands of working people and our allies and stand up for strong unions. Send a message to corporations that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a core democratic principle and right. It is a checks and balance on corporations in the quest for a good family wages, healthcare, quality schools, vibrant communities and a secure future for all of us. It is also a powerful voice in overcoming the influence of wealthy interests in our election system and voter suppression.

If you are in the fight to win reforms on money and politics, expand and protect voting rights, redistricting, and ethics reform join us on February 24 and demand an end to a system that’s rigged against working people.

Find a local event at http://www.itsaboutfreedom.org.

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 gkassa@democracyinitiative.org. We will send out a special notice with the full toolkit and messaging material.




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: http://bit.ly/DemocracyChampion

Trainers do not need to be subject-matter experts. We need folks willing to commit to some nights and weekends, are good listeners and understand 1:1 communication, and able to travel for trainings. Grassroots organizing experience is helpful, but not necessary. 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 gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

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

21st Century Democracy Reforms Advancing in New Jersey and New York!

This week the democracy movement made major steps forward to ensure access to voting for more citizens in New Jersey and New York. We must continue to create the demand for 21st century democracy reforms and move elected leaders to act so all people can have a voice in our democracy. Participation is central to the ability to advocate for the kitchen table issues that matter most to members.

“Democracy Act” (New Jersey) – The General Assembly is considering a sweeping set of reforms to adopt automatic voter registration (AVR), early voting, online voter registration, and preregistration for 17-year-olds. The Democracy Act has the potential to increase participation for marginalized communities – the working class, low income, people or color, students, and seniors.

#DemocracyNYC (New York, NY) – Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new initiative, Democracy NYC, to expand and protect democracy for millions of New Yorkers. De Blasio’s democracy agenda includes improvements to public financing, expanding voting access, and voter registration and engagement efforts – specifically to register young voters through high school civics programs.

Victory! Early Voting funding from Governor Cuomo (New York) – Thanks to the efforts of the diverse grassroots coalition of unions, civil rights, and good government groups led by Let NY Vote, Governor Cuomo added funding for early voting in his 30-day budget amendments. Many national DI partners participated in actions to encourage support for funding through the state to ensure counties can implement early voting successfully. Share this big win with your members on Twitter and Facebook!



This week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demonstrated yet again why is unfit to hold the highest law enforcement office in the land. AG Jeff Sessions shows himself to be unqualified for his current role and openly biased against communities of color and marginalized groups. In a recent speech he celebrated the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” and has lead efforts throughout the Department of Justice to dismantle agencies responsible for protecting the civil liberties of Americans. The NAACP released a statement condemning his remarks and calling to question Sessions’ ability to stand up for justice for all Americans. Read the statement from DI Board Member Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of NAACP.

PFAW Report Card

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 on Sessions.


Last week Friday, February 9th, DI Executive Director Wendy Fields and Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn provided testimony on the need to expand and strengthen the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP) in Connecticut. Wendy and Karen expressed the need to strengthen the CEP as an important tool for giving ordinary citizens a voice and creating transparency in our government. Connecticut’s program is a model for the rest of the country. Since it was implemented 10 years ago, the General Assembly has become more diverse with more working class, more women, and more people of color holding elected office. It is also extremely popular with 80% of legislators choosing to run under public financing.

READ The Connecticut Mirror article on the hearing.

READ testimony from Wendy Fields and Karen Hobert Flynn.

WATCH testimony.


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 eorbuch@democracyinitiative.org.


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 gkassa@democracyinitiative.org


2018 Calendar for Mobilizing Working Group Meetings

Bi-Weekly on Wednesdays at 3pm EST / Noon PST
RSVP to gkassa@democracyinitiative.org, cc: eorbuch@democracyinitiative.org

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 gkassa@democracyinitiative.org 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 mwhittaker@democracyinitiative.org, cc: eorbuch@democracyinitiative.org

Next Meetings: February 22 and March 22

Stay Connected with DI Partners

We invite partners to share a victory, recruit for actions in the fight for democracy or a conference? Email Michelle (mwhittaker@democracyinitiative.org) to add an action for the next Weekly Update!

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