DI Report

Democracy Initiative Update 12.16.20

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Democracy was on the ballot in 2020—and together, we made a difference. Despite continued mass voter suppression, we achieved the largest and most inclusive election in American history. When all the votes are counted, nearly 160 million people will have cast ballots—the largest number ever.

This achievement reflects years of hard work by the overall democracy movement, and by Democracy Initiative partners and allies across the country. You can and should take credit for these accomplishments. To read our year-end action report, click here.

2020 has been a long, eventful, and exhausting year. We would like to wish all of you a restful and reinvigorating holiday season, and we look forward to joining you in 2021 for the work ahead of us.

— The DI Team

DI ENCOURAGES CONGRESS TO PASS THE FOR THE PEOPLE ACT

On December 7, the Democracy Initiative sent a letter to Congress strongly endorsing the “For the People Act,” the transformational legislation passed by the House in March that aims to revitalize our democracy and fulfill the promise of our country’s ideals. Speaker Pelosi has pledged to introduce the For the People Act on the first day of the new Congress. From the letter:

“This past election shined a spotlight on critical vulnerabilities in our democracy. In the face of a deadly pandemic, people voted in record numbers despite orchestrated voter suppression designed to disenfranchise millions of Americans and bankrolled by corporate interests and the wealthy few. No one should ever have to choose between their health and their right to vote. And voters should not have to compete with wealthy corporate interests to have their say.

We need immediate structural changes beginning with those in the For the People Act to ensure that the people have a seat at the governing table and a voice on the essential issues that affect our lives. Without structural democracy reform, our nation will remain unable to fully address important substantive priorities for the American people, such as access to affordable healthcare, protecting the environment, ending racial injustice, protecting the rights of workers and creating millions of good-paying jobs.”

Read the full letter here.

TAKE ACTION: SUPPORT OUR #ELECTIONHEROES

Throughout this historically unprecedented Election Season, election workers did their jobs so that every American could cast their ballots and have them counted accurately. Thanks to these Election Heroes, more Americans than ever before had their voices heard in our democracy.

We are joining DI partners and allies on Thursday, December 17 for an #ElectionHeroes Day of Action to show our appreciation for our election officials. Please encourage your members and supporters to do a 15-second video thanking their local election workers and post it on social media with the hashtag #ElectionHeroes. Make sure to tag us at @Unite4Democracy and we’ll share it as well.

DI partner Public Citizen has provided a sample email invite and text invite to engage your members.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

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Democracy Initiative Update 12.03.20

Thursday, December 3, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

ANNOUNCING DI Leadership Transition; NATIONAL SEARCH FOR ED UNDERWAY

The Board of Directors of the Democracy Initiative (DI), a coalition of 75 labor, civil rights and environmental organizations representing more than 45 million people, announced on Monday, November 30 that current Deputy Director Jennifer Lamson will serve as interim executive director, effective December 1, 2020.

The organization will conduct a national search to replace outgoing Executive Director Wendy Fields, who is leaving the organization to pursue new personal and professional opportunities.

“We are grateful to Wendy for four years of dynamic, innovative leadership,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause and co–chair of the DI Board of Directors. “Wendy’s strategic vision built our capacity and grounded our work in the real needs and experiences of the millions of people who are members and constituents of DI affiliates. We could not be prouder of the role DI has played in the growing democracy movement, achieving a record turnout in 2020, the most diverse and inclusive election in U.S. history.”

“You don’t say ‘goodbye’ to someone like Wendy,” said Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and also a co-chair of the DI. “She is my sister in the trade union movement and a true warrior for social justice. I know for certain that we will be marching together in the future, wherever there is a cutting-edge fight for our democracy, for the rights of workers, and to protect our planet.”

Lamson has served as DI’s Deputy Director since 2019, overseeing the organization’s field organizing and strategic communications activities. She is an experienced non-profit executive, with extensive background in grassroots organizing, strategic planning, communications, and program management.  

Lamson has previously served as a vice president of Common Cause, director of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and as a strategic advisor to foundations, environmental and social service organizations.  

“We don’t have a minute to waste,” said Lamson. “DI partners share a deep commitment to realizing the promise of our democracy by lifting up the leadership of people of color, the working class, and front-line social justice organizations. Together, we can build on this historic election to create a governing agenda that confronts the urgent issues that affect our lives: racial justice, the right to vote, the corrupting role of big money in politics, climate change, and COVID-19 relief.”

Please circulate the Executive Director job description in your networks.

TAKE ACTION: GEORGIA RUN-OFF ELECTION

Nonpartisan Election Protection volunteers are voters’ first line of defense against restrictive election laws, coronavirus-related voting disruptions, or anything else that could silence their voices. The Election Protection coalition is currently recruiting for the follo

The deadline to register to vote in the Georgia Run-off Election is December 7 - only 4 days away, and we need your help to get us to the finish line. Your organization can make a huge difference in this pivotal January 5 run-off election—for not only the state of Georgia but our country in 2021 and beyond.

For a briefing on the 2020 General Election and the importance of Georgia’s January 5 election, check out this recording of New Georgia Project CEO Nse Ufot from our November 12 Urgent Action Meeting call.

Below you’ll find key info and resources for your Georgia members and supporters to make sure they can cast their votes in this decisive election.

KEY VOTING INFORMATION

  • The runoff election is Tuesday, January 5.
  • The voter registration deadline is Monday, December 7. If you are an eligible Georgian and you are not yet registered to vote, click here to register so you can vote in the runoff elections!
  • If you have any questions about registering to vote, call the Voter Protection Hotline at 888-730-5816. Remember, if you are otherwise eligible and you’ll turn 18 by January 5, 2021, you can register to vote, too!
  • Early voting will begin December 14 and ends January 1 (The Secretary of State’s office needs to confirm January 1 date, which is what they have listed, but is obviously a holiday).
  • Request your absentee ballot TODAY as ballots are already being mailed to eligible voters.
  • Request an absentee ballot for the January 5, 2021 Federal Runoff Election here.
  • If you apply for a vote-by-mail ballot, you can check your ballot status on the Georgia My Voter Page or by using the BallotTrax app.

FINDING HELP

  • Election Protection: Need help? Call the Georgia Voter Protection Hotline at 888-730-5816 for any voting questions.
    • Need assistance in another language?
      • Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA
      • Arabic/English: 844-YALLA-US
      • Asian Languages/English: 888-API-VOTE
  • Displaced or evicted because of COVID-19? Call 888-730-5816 or contact your county elections office. Click here to get the email and phone number for your county.

VOLUNTEER

  • Election Protection Volunteers: New Georgia Project currently needs at minimum 200 Election Protection Poll Monitors to ensure every eligible voter can cast their ballots safely and have them counted. To volunteer, reach out to New Georgia Project Voting and Election Protection Director Kiddada Asmara Grey at kiddada@newgeorgiaproject.org.
  • To volunteer in one of New Georgia Project's many work groups, fill out this form.
  • If you’re interested in deploying folks in-person to Georgia from out of state to help with Voter Registration (before December 7, 2020) or Election Protection, please complete this questionnaire.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact DI National Field Manager Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

JOIN DI AT ROOTSCAMP 2020: MAKING A PLAN FOR 2021

The Democracy Initiative Education Fund is co-hosting RootsCamp 2020 along with Re:Power, New Media Mentors, GAIN POWER and Organizing 2.0 on December 11-12.

RootsCamp is an “unconference” where the content is organized by the attendees. This year's virtual event will bring together a coalition of progressive leaders to debrief the election and dissect what happened—with an eye toward moving forward together and strategizing for 2021 and beyond.

The event will offer workshops, trainings, panel discussions, networking opportunities, visionary speakers, an organization expo, and provocative debates about strategy and best practices.

Ready to get your tickets? Click here to reserve your spot.

This event is the collaborative effort of some great progressive organizations committed to building a progressive vision and moving our collective power.

The goal of Rootscamp is to provide an open, transparent space for conversation around what happened this election cycle and how we move forward in 2021, 2022, and beyond. Together, we'll build community with those who worked hard on campaigns and have a chance to learn from each other and strengthen our movement.

Want to submit a session for Rootscamp? Click here.

And don't forget to get your tickets for Rootscamp December 11 and 12; it's coming up soon! Click here to reserve your spot now.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: HR1 ACTIVIST TRAINING TONIGHT AT 6PM EST

The Declaration for American Democracy Coalition is hosting the “Power to the People, How to Win Back Our Democracy” activist training TONIGHT, December 3 at 6:00PM EST.

To support the livestream, we’re asking partners and allies to share the live stream from our Facebook page onto their own organization's page.

The training will educate activists on the various components of the For the People Act and describe how its passage would transform our democracy. It will also train and inspire activists to take action to help pass the For the People Act.

We’ll be joined by U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, along with DFAD coalition members who will walk activists through the various ways they can take action, including how participate in our national call-in effort, LTE campaign, and how to organize an in-district meeting with their MOC.

The activist training will take place through Zoom and will be live-streamed on Facebook.

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Democracy Initiative Update 10.28.20

Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

RUSHED, SHAM PROCESS TO SEAT NEW JUSTICE

Last Thursday, October 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) rammed through a vote on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett just weeks away before an extraordinarily Election—marked by new voting laws, an ongoing pandemic, and unprecedented voter suppression and disinformation—may end up before the Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed Monday evening, the first time in a century and a half that a justice was confirmed without the votes of any members of the minority party. His only priority achieved, McConnell adjourned the Senate until November 9, leaving the American people without coronavirus relief.

Democracy Initiative (DI) Executive Director Wendy Fields gave the following statement in response:

“It’s unbelievable that Mitch McConnell can ignore desperately needed coronavirus relief that has been pending for months, then spend just a few weeks ramming through a questionable appointment for naked partisan advantage.

“Amy Coney Barrett, if confirmed, will face an irrevocable conflict of interest. How can she rule impartially on election disputes involving the president who rushed her nomination through—unfairly and without precedent—at the very end of his term in office?

“McConnell and Lindsey Graham have broken the rules of the U.S. Senate and making up new ones as they go along. A sham process to seat a new Supreme Court justice—in the middle of an election, while people are already voting—undermines the legitimacy of the Court and will do lasting damage to our democracy.

“If confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett will be the first Supreme Court justice ever seated so close to Election Day. She will also be the only justice ever nominated and confirmed by a president who lost the popular vote and a Senate ‘majority’ that actually represents a minority of U.S. voters.

“The American people deserve better.”

Read the full statement here. Click here to retweet our statement on Twitter.

TAKE ACTION: RECRUIT VOLUNTEERS FOR ELECTION PROTECTION

Nonpartisan Election Protection volunteers are voters’ first line of defense against restrictive election laws, coronavirus-related voting disruptions, or anything else that could silence their voices. The Election Protection coalition is currently recruiting for the following key positions; please circulate widely in your networks.

  • Hotline Captains: The 866-OUR-VOTE hotline is answered by trained legal volunteers daily who are supported by Hotline Captains through the hotline platform’s chat function. The captain role is critical for the success of the national voter hotline, and Election Protection needs to fill over 1,200 captain shifts between now and Election Day. At this time, Election Protection is only recruiting Hotline Captains from those who already have experience on the virtual hotline. You can find the captain interest survey here.
  • “Hotline Lead”: The Hotline Lead supervises volunteers who answer calls and monitor the hotline call intake platform. Their main role involves rapidly responding to emergent issues, including getting hotline operations information as needed, flagging matters that must be immediately addressed by Lawyers’ Committee staff, and tracking what should be noted and monitored. The current ask is for 20 – 30 hours a week. You can find the sign-up link here.
  • Tech Captains: The new Tech Captain role will allow existing volunteer captains and staff to focus more on the substantive, nuanced issues associated with operating a remote volunteer hotline while ensuring Election Protection can adequately prepare and support volunteers with a variety of technological proficiencies. In this document, you will find training information, additional description of the expectations and a link to sign up for specific shifts between now and November 1.

Additionally, the Election Protection coalition is recruiting volunteers in several key states and counties across the country. Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia are all in need of volunteers. The specific counties in need are:

  • Arizona: Maricopa
  • California: Riverside, San Bernadino
  • Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade
  • Georgia: Chatham, Gwinnett
  • Illinois: Cook, Sangamon
  • Maryland: Baltimore
  • Michigan: Wayne
  • Mississippi: Hind County
  • New Mexico: Cibola, Otero
  • Nevada: Clark, Reno
  • New York: Bronx, Richmond
  • Ohio: Cuyahoga, Hamilton
  • Texas: Harris
  • Utah: Salt Lake
  • Virginia: Norfolk
  • Wisconsin: Milwaukee

Those interested in volunteering and making a major difference for voters in their community can do so here. Volunteers will be supplied with all the information they need to get started.

TRAINING, THE POST-ELECTION & DISINFORMATION

On Monday, October 19, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), including DI board Co-Chair and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, released a powerful statement titled America's Labor Movement Will Defend America's Democracy:

We, the elected leaders of America’s labor movement, have a message for anyone who would seek to prevent eligible voters from voting, to prevent our votes from being counted, to prevent the electors we choose from being seated, or to prevent those electors’ choice as president and vice president from being inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021. We will not let you take our democracy away from us. America’s working people are determined and prepared to defend our democracy.

We couldn’t agree more. To stay engaged in DI partners' preparation and response to post-voting state actions, we encourage you to sign up for the DI Rapid Response list here.

As the AFL-CIO statement says, it's up to us to fight for our democracy.

"The lesson of our history is clear. Democracies are not, in the last analysis, protected by judges or lawyers, reporters or publishers. The survival of democracy depends on the determination of working people to defend it."

POLL WORKER AND VOLUNTEER TRAINING
DI is supporting partner efforts to prepare their members for Election Day. Several partners and allies are providing trainings for poll workers, volunteers, and voters. Please check out these trainings and share with your networks.

The League of Women Voters of the United States is providing a Bearing Witness on Thursday, October 29 at 6:00pm EST training to prepare voters and volunteers to handle voter intimidation at in-person polling sites. Sign up for this training here. The League is partnering with DI, Flint Rising, Greenpeace USA, NAACP, and others to arm participants with the de-escalation skills they will need to be prepared for this cycle.

POST-ELECTION PREPARATION AND RAPID RESPONSE
More than 60 million Americans have already cast their ballots with more than a week to go before Election Day. With new voting laws in more than 40 states making it easier and safer than ever to vote, the country is on track for the transformative 75% voter turnout goal DI partners called for in November 2019.

Despite these promising signs, the 2020 general election will still be among the most challenging in modern history. From conducting an election during a public health crisis, to understanding the Electoral College and the process by which Congress counts electoral votes— the American public needs to be prepared for any problems that could arise along the way.

National Task Force on Election Crises has created a guide to three prospective crises of particular concern, along with recommendations and resources for ensuring a free and fair election. Read the guide here.

To stay engaged in DI partners' preparation and response to post-voting state actions, we encourage you to sign up for the DI Rapid Response list here.

Additionally, the DI is partnering with the Fight Back Table in preparation and response to post-voting state actions in the event of crisis. They have created (c)3 and (c)4 compliant listservs to keep partners in the loop with meetings, alerts, and other urgent information. If you would like to be added to either or both listservs, email Jack Flynn at jflynn@democracyintiative.org.

Protect the Results, a joint (c)4 project by Indivisible and Stand Up America, has created a map of potential events around scheduled for November 4 to mobilize voters to protect and defend the results of the 2020 Election. For DI partners and allies engaging in (c)4 work, check out the map here.

ELECTION DISINFORMATION—TOOLKIT
Through the #Protect2020 campaign, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has worked with national partners to identify, respond to, and mitigate the spread of disinformation (false or misleading information) that may impact the nation’s elections.

Reducing the circulation of disinformation requires engagement of all citizens who are part of the elections process, including you. CISA has produced a messaging toolkit and FAQ designed for election officials and civic organizations working to mitigating the impact of disinformation on the public’s confidence in the 2020 election. Get the toolkit here.

Election officials can help citizens avoid contributing to the spread of disinformation by presenting themselves as the preferred source for election information and instilling a spirit of control, empowerment, and personal responsibility within the electorate. Additionally, election officials can use strategic messaging to inform public communications and increase public access, participation, and trust in our election process.

Get the toolkit here.

ROADBLOCKS & REMEDIES: STATE OF VOTING IN 2020

On Thursday, October 8, DI released “Roadblocks and Remedies: the State of Voting in 2020,” a report that details the democracy movement’s victories over the past decades. As DI Executive Director Wendy Fields said upon release,

“The result is expanded access to the ballot box, so we are more prepared for voting during a pandemic. We’re fighting back against racism and voter suppression, for safe in-person voting on Election Day, and to create a voting system that works for how we live and work in the 21st century.”

The democracy movement has successfully expanded access to the ballot, with more voting options now available than ever before. In 2018 and 2019 alone, voters and/or state legislatures approved voting reforms in 21 states.

Our success has helped prepare the United States for a pandemic election: In response to health risks linked to in-person voting, many states have adopted proven reforms long-advocated by the democracy movement, including Early Voting and Vote-by-Mail (or no-excuse absentee voting).

However, as the report details, roadblocks remain to successful voting. Much of the coverage DI’s report received in the media focused on Mississippi being the only state with in-person voting on Election Day as the only option available to all voters, though the report was covered in Georgia, Michigan, and elsewhere.

Get the full report here.

PRESSURE MOUNTS TO ELIMINATE THE FILIBUSTER

On October 19, progressive leaders in California, including DI partners, sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom requesting that, should Senator Kamala Harris become Vice President, she be replaced by an appointed Senator committed to eliminating the Senate filibuster. The labor leaders, who were joined by senior leaders of the California Democratic Party, wrote “The filibuster must either be eliminated or reformed to such a degree that it can no longer block the progress our nation so desperately needs.”

The letter’s framing of the filibuster fight as key to governing effectively in 2021 reflects a growing recognition that our country cannot make progress on the issues we all care about with a Senate rigged for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. Other voices in the media are beginning to pick up on the message coming from the grassroots:

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Roadblocks and Remedies: The State of Voting in 2020

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Download the full report here.

Roadblocks and Remedies: The State of Voting in 2020
Executive Summary

2020 will be a historic election – with expanded participation driven by the successes of the democracy movement. As many as 160 million Americans are projected to vote in 2020. If achieved this will be the highest turnout in a presidential election in more than 100 years.

The democracy movement has successfully expanded access to the ballot, with more voting options now available than ever before. In 2018 and 2019 alone, voters and/or state legislatures approved voting reforms in 21 states.

Our success has helped prepare the United States for a pandemic election: In response to health risks linked to in-person voting, many states have adopted proven reforms long-advocated by the democracy movement, including Early Voting and Vote- by-Mail (or no-excuse absentee voting).

What we’ve achieved in 2020:

  • Vote by mail is available in 45 states and the District of Columbia (DC).
  • Early Voting is available in 43 states (and DC).
  • 39 states (and DC) offer three voting options: Vote-by-mail, Early Voting, and in-person voting on Election Day.
  • 20 states and DC with Same-Day Voter Registration (including North Dakota, where no registration is required).

Only one remaining state – Mississippi – still has in-person voting on Election Day as the only option available to all voters.

Roadblocks remain to successful voting: Common voter suppression tactics include ballots delayed by purposeful slowdown of the US mail; closed polling places, purged voter rolls, restrictive voter ID laws, ballot drop boxes decommissioned, and litigation to limit ballot access. In addition, those using a new voting option for the first time may confront an information gap about rules, deadlines, times and locations for Early Voting and Vote-by-Mail.

Remedies to assist voters: Many common roadblocks to voting can be overcome by a common remedy. Know the Rules, MAKE A PLAN and Vote Early. Additional resources for voters include:

  • tracking mail ballots and ensuring that ballots are signed, sealed and delivered
  • information about times and locations for Early Voting and vote-by-mail
  • planning to vote safely if voting in-person on Election Day
  • accurate and trusted information about election results, which will likely not be available on Election Day or the morning after. 2020 will have an election period, rather than an Election Day. Getting it right is more important than getting it fast.
     

Roadblocks and Remedies: The State of Voting 2020
Key resources for voters and field workers

Vote411.org: Starting at this site, voters can check their registration status in any state and link to quick and easy online voter registration, where available.

HealthyVoting.org: Starting at this site, voters can check key voting information in any state, including:

  • registration deadlines
  • times and dates for Early Voting
  • deadlines for applying for a mail ballot
  • deadlines for returning a mail ballot
  • ballot tracking information where available.

Secretary of State websites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Local election officials in cities, towns and counties in all 50 states and DC. Information on early voting centers and where to drop off mail ballots is available from local election officials.

The Election Protection Center, at 1-866-Our-Vote (866-687-8683), for any roadblocks or problems that might prevent a successful vote during Early Voting, vote- by-mail, or in-person voting on Election Day.
 

Download the full report here.

Democracy Initiative Update 10.02.20

Friday, October 2, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

TAKE ACTION: KNOW THE RULES, MAKE A PLAN, VOTE EARLY

The stakes have never been higher for our democracy.

The 2020 General Election has already begun, with voters across the country casting their ballots. As we’ve seen recently in the first debate and elsewhere, the combination of new voting rules in many places and ongoing attempts to sow chaos and fear make it more important than ever for voters to know the rules, make a plan, and vote early.

We are asking the principal leaders of all Democracy Initiative (DI) partners to create and share with your members a simple video with key voter education information. To help make that easy, DI staff have created this simple toolkit with everything you need to make and share a great video message. Porter McConnell, Campaign Director of DI partner Take On Wall Street, has recently created an excellent video to use as an example.

DI partner organizations are leaders and trusted voices in the fight for social justice and our democracy. In this unpredictable election season, in which counting votes may continue for days or weeks beyond November 3 due to the surge in mail ballots, which just take longer to process, it is critical to provide key information for our collective 45 million members and supporters.

Please reach out to Getachew Kassa, National Field Manager, at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org or Jack Flynn, Communications Associate, at jflynn@democracyinitiative.org with any questions.

TAKE ACTION: BE AN #OCTOBERVOTER

Over 60 partner organizations and allies participated in the October Voter launch yesterday, a social media initiative designed to encourage our members and supporters across the country to join the over 2 million Americans who have already voted this general election season. With new voter laws in effect in response to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s never been a better time to make a plan to be an #OctoberVoter.

The DI Make a Plan social media toolkit includes an #OctoberVoter graphic for Facebook/Instagram and Twitter. In addition, we have collaborated with Declaration for American Democracy, Election Protection, and the Leadership Conference on this shared toolkit of #OctoberVoter sample posts and graphics.

FIGHT THE POWER-GRAB AND FIX OUR BROKEN SENATE

On Wednesday, September 30, DI board members Tefere Gebre (AFL-CIO Executive Vice-President), Derrick Johnson (NAACP President & CEO), Erich Pica (Friends of the Earth President), and Gustavo Torres (CASA Executive Director) joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other speakers at the “Trump-McConnell Attack on Our Democracy and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Senate” live-stream event which has garnered nearly 180,000 viewers.

The speakers made the case for the elimination of the filibuster to put an end to partisan gridlock in the Senate in order to begin the work to restore our democracy and make progress on critical issues facing our country, like the climate crisis, racial justice, immigration, healthcare, income inequality and more. We’ve reproduced key remarks of Tefere, Derrick, Erich and Gustavo below:

Tefere Gebre:

“There is much that needs to be done. From the perspective of working people, this has been going on for decades and decades. In the early 1990s we were told that if we elect progressives to the House and Senate, we would get anti-strike replacement legislation. It never happened. The excuse was the filibuster. Again in 2009, a year of hope and change, we never got the Employee Free Choice Act that would have leveled the playing field for working people. Again because of the filibuster and fear of the filibuster. Sisters and brothers this is serious [...] what is the point of winning elections if we can’t govern after we win? This is what this fight is about. For us that means activating the movement within the labor movement and that is our labor councils. And, I am proud to say [...] we have a bunch of labor councils who are ready to go to work.”

Derrick Johnson:

“Senate Rules have long been used as a tool to impede progress, primarily by southern Senators who’ve seen threats where there are no threats, particularly giving rights to African Americans. [...] It was the Senate Rules that weakened the Civil Rights Act and prevented the Voting Rights Act from moving forward. The filibuster has been a tool to impede progress on civil rights for African Americans, to impede progress on making sure this is a more inclusive democracy that is representative of all of our interests. That’s why we must revise the rules—the king of which is the filibuster—so we can stop the block of the South from creating an unequal nation, so we can get to a more perfect union where equal protection under the law is afforded to all citizens.”

Erich Pica:

“We’ve had Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, flooding in the Midwest, droughts in the Midwest, and now fires across the west. We’re in the midst of the climate crisis. And the solution is passing broad-based legislation—like the Green New Deal or taking away subsidies to the oil industry—that has been stymied for the last 10 years because of the filibuster in the Senate. We can’t have Mitch McConnell there doing the business of the fossil fuel industry with his filibuster blocking legislation that millions of people are mobilizing for […] I believe strongly that we as an environmental group need to throw down behind these efforts to make the Senate work by fixing the filibuster because we’re not gonna get done what we need to do if the filibuster is there being used by the fossil fuel interests championed by Mitch McConnell to block policies that would set our country on the course to reduce our GHGs and solve the climate crisis. We all need to be throwing in to this fight together.”

Gustavo Torres:

“We tried to pass the Dream Act in 2010 for undocumented youths—who by the way pay more taxes than Trump. We had a majority in the Senate but it was killed with a Republican filibuster. There is so much we need to do right now to protect our communities, keep our families together and finally pass the immigration reform our country needs. But if we don’t fix the Senate we are just going to get blocked again and again. To us this isn’t about Senate Rules, it’s about our lives, our families, our communities.”

The rush to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court as voters have already begun casting their ballots for the 2020 General Election, and while the second coronavirus relief package, the HEROES Act, and other critical legislation languishes in McConnell’s Senate legislative graveyard, reminds us that the stakes are clear. It’s time to organize to ensure nothing prevents the American people from taking a seat at the governing table in 2021.

The fight to fix our broken Senate is ramping up, and your organization’s members are a critical to ensuring the American people have a seat at the governing table in 2021. Please encourage your members to pledge to work for Senate rules reform in their own state. You can use Fix Our Senate’s petition page or create your own pledge page by following the guide in this toolkit.

Recent news coverage has reflected the growing momentum for Senate rules reform. DI board co-chair and AFL-CIO Executive Vice-President Tefere Gebre’s remarks from the Fix Our Senate live-stream were quoted in a recent article for The New Republic, and Vox’s Ezra Klein published on October 1 a comprehensive examination and debunking of every argument in favor of keeping the filibuster. As we approach 2021, the grassroots demand for a Senate that governs only continues to mount.

Senate Rules Reform is one of the democracy issues that brought the DI’s cross-sector coalition together back in 2012 and again at the 2019 DI Annual Meeting, because out-of-control obstructionism was blocking progress on the issues our 75 partner organizations—representing 45 million people—care about. There is strong public support for our shared values of inclusion and justice and opportunity for all. Policies built on those values can meet the challenges we face. We must ensure that the Senate can govern so America can rise to this moment.

Watch the full live stream event here. You can download the DI’s Fix the Senate Fact Sheet here.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

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Democracy Initiative Update 09.18.20

Friday, September 18, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

KNOW THE RULES, MAKE A PLAN, VOTE EARLY

Even in this climate of the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters, and rampant voter suppression, voters are poised to turn out to vote in historic numbers. But, with the new safe voting options we have won in many places, combined with opposition attempts to sow disinformation and chaos, Americans across the country need access to good information from leaders and organizations they trust. This is a critically important time for your members to hear from you.

We are asking the leaders of all DI partners to create a simple video with key voter education information and share it with your supporters. To help make that easy, DI staff have created a simple toolkit with everything you need to make and share a great video message.

We've included video instructions, a sample script, and talking points to streamline this process, as well as sample emails and social media posts to help get this information into the hands of your members.

GET THE MAKE A PLAN TOOLKIT HERE

For democracy to work for all of us, it must include all of us. Every vote counts and every vote must be counted.

We make change when we join together. We march. We organize. We make a plan to vote—as early as possible, by mail or safely in person. And. In. Record. Numbers.

We will demand that every vote be counted. Mail ballots can take longer to count, so it's important to be patient while all the votes are counted and stay vigilant right up to when newly elected leaders are sworn in.

The Make a Plan Video Toolkit is designed to help you get this message out to your members, supporters and followers by making a simple video encouraging them to be intentional and early voters and patient for the results.

If you have any questions, please contact DI National Field Manager Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org or Jack Flynn, DI Social Media Manager, at jflynn@democracyinitiative.org.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: COUNTING EVERY VOTE

2020 is increasingly appearing as an election unprecedented in American history. With the still-looming coronavirus pandemic leading to a shift toward absentee voting, new and changing voting laws responding to grassroots demand for safe and accessible voting, and blatant attempts to sow confusion and discord among voters, we must be prepared to adjust our expectations to meet the moment. One expectation that needs shifting? Expecting results on election night.

Recent analysis in the Washington Post demonstrates that the primaries, many of which saw a marked increase in the use of absentee voting, are a reliable indication that election results may take as long as a week to be fully reported (the states that heavily used Vote by Mail reported their results in an average of 6.4 days).

We encourage partner organizations to begin spreading the message to their members and supporters, by way of the Make a Plan Video Toolkit or in your own communications, that it is more important to ensure every vote is counted than seeing results quickly.

See the analysis here.

DI BOARD MEMBERS ON THE MOVE

In a recent op-ed penned with Business for American Founder and CEO Sarah Bonk, League of Women Voters of the United States CEO and DI board member Virginia Kase lays out the civics case for emergency relief for the United States Postal Service (USPS) alongside the business case.

The piece reaffirms what has been clear to people since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in March: the USPS is essential for the functioning of our democracy. USPS does everything from facilitating billions of dollars of commerce to delivering life-saving medications, and performs a critical role in all parts of the democratic process, from voter registration to absentee ballot delivery.

As Bonk and Kase write,

“Just as businesses must react to consumer demand, every elected official — local, state and federal; Republican, Democrat and independent – must respond to the clear demand from voters for safe ways to participate in our democracy.

No voter should have to choose between their health and safety and exercising their constitutional right to vote. And no business should experience the uncertainty — and loss of sales, revenue and equity — that occurs when a collapse of trust in the electoral process drives political instability and then economic instability.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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Democracy Initiative Update 09.11.20

Friday, September 11, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

SEPTEMBER 16 MOBILIZING MEETING: VOTER EDUCATION, USPS, AND SENATE RULES

As we head into the general election season, the DI Mobilizing Meetings will be happening weekly to keep you updated on important developments on voting, inoculation against disinformation, rapid response, and more. RSVP here.

Our agenda will cover the following:

  • Launch of ‘Know the Rules, Make A Plan, Vote Early’ Video Toolkit It is more important than ever to make a plan to vote this election. Democracy Initiative is encouraging principals of partner groups to commit to making a plan for either safe-in person voting or Vote by Mail—and sending their ballot in early—and to share a short video message to members and supporters urging them to do the same. We will share our partner video toolkit next week with sample talking points, video script and instructions, and sample social media for partners’ engagement.
  • #SaveUSPS Fight Update: DI coalition partners are mounting an enormous push this month to get emergency relief for the Post Office and reverse service cuts, as part of the larger effort to save the USPS. We will be joined by Porter McConnell, Campaign Director for DI partner Take On Wall Street, and Debby Szeredy, Executive Vice President for DI partner American Postal Workers Union, to discuss the on the ongoing fight and opportunities for your organizations to plug in.
  • Senate Governance Update: Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of AFL-CIO, will brief DI partners about the current Senate Governance landscape and critical opportunities to move forward on filibuster reform in the coming weeks and months. An issue the DI has worked on since 2009, this Senate Governance update comes at a critical time, as we approach the most important election of our lifetimes and the prospect of governing a country riven by Trump is on the horizon. The growing media coverage of the Filibuster reflects a growing support for serious Senate Rules reform, as the recent pieces in The Atlantic and Washington Post demonstrate. As Tefere said in The American Prospects’ latest,

    “Democracy functions with 50 plus one, but if a senator just files for filibuster everything is killed. Everything dies. A senator should not have the same ability to block legislation when they have less than a million people in their state, as a senator from California, right? In order to pass the PRO Act, in order to get a Green New Deal and so many other things, we have to have senators who are willing and gutsy enough to actually reform the Senate.”

Mark your calendars now for these upcoming DI Mobilizing Meetings:

  • September 28 — Inoculation against disinformation and messaging
  • October 7 — Election Protection Briefing and Engagement Opportunities
  • October 14 — Voter education to engage members and supporters online

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. RSVP here or email Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org for more information.

TRAINING AND MOVEMENT BUILDING UPDATES

Democracy Initiative Education Fund’s training efforts are continuing full speed with just over 50 days to Election Day. So far, we have hosted trainings for DI partners and allies ACLU of Michigan, A. Philip Randolph Institute, AFL-CIO Texas, Center for Environmental Health, Greenpeace USA, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, March On Harrisburg, NAACP, and UAW Region 9A.

We are offering two trainings for activists this year: a Know the Rules training, with the goal of recruiting poll workers and election protection volunteers, as well as ensuring voters have the information they need to make a plan to vote; and an Inoculation training, which prepares activists to recognize and inoculate against voter suppression and misinformation in their communities.

We are organizing trainings with partners and allies in Michigan. We’re also focusing on the following priority states: FL, GA, MD, MO, NC, NM, PA, VA, and WI.

If your organization is interested in hosting one of these training, please reach out to DI Training and Movement Building Coordinator Brittny Baxter at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org to schedule a training in one of the following slots:

  • Sundays: 4:00pm – 7:00pm EST
  • Tuesdays 5:00pm – 8:00pm EST
  • Thursdays: 11:00am – 1:00pm EST and 5:00pm – 8:00pm EST
  • Saturdays: 10:00am – 12:00pm EST

If you are interested organizing a joint campaign for trainings and volunteer engagement, please contact Brittny at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org.

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Democracy Initiative Update 08.28.20

Friday, August 28, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

TAKE ACTION: NATIONAL POLL WORKER RECRUITMENT DAY KICKOFF

Next Tuesday, September 1 is National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, a day of action kicking off a nationwide effort to solve the nation’s pressing need for poll workers.

During a moment when law enforcement’s relationship to the communities they ostensibly serve has been torn apart by police violence, Trump has recently threatened to send sheriffs and police to polling places. In this environment of tension and uncertainty, one of our movement’s foremost priorities is to safeguard the integrity of one of the most important elections of our lifetime. Across the country, however, there is a record shortage of poll workers, which could result in polling place closures, overworked volunteers, and long lines.

DI is an official partner in Power the Polls, a nationwide effort to recruit 250,000 poll workers.

Here’s how to get involved:

  • Take action on Social Media: Power the Polls has created a Poll Worker Recruitment Toolkit, which contains graphics and social media content calling attention to the pressing need for poll workers this year. Please share the toolkit with your social media team.
  • Join the DI and Leadership Conference for a Special Mobilizing Meeting: The DI is holding a special Mobilizing Call on Wednesday, September 2, at 12pm EST in coordination with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for a discussion on the critical efforts to recruit thousands of poll workers for the 2020 election. David Huynh from Power the Polls will join us to discuss their poll worker recruitment efforts and how DI partners can plug-in to help ensure a safe, fair election for all voters.

Please register here to receive the call-in information for this important Zoom meeting. If your organization has members to activate in Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, please contact DI National Field Manager Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org. Getachew can help you organize a training designed to recruit election volunteers or get your state affiliates plugged in to local coalition recruitment activities.

RELIEF FOR COVID & DEMOCRACY: MOBILIZE FOR USPS AND VOTING SUPPORT IN NEXT BILL

On August 16, the entire Democracy Initiative board issued a clarion call for corporate CEOs to join the fight for a fully funded, safe, accessible election and strong United States Postal Service (USPS) in an op-ed published in USA Today. As AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica, CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres, Demos President K. Sabeel Rahman, League of Women Voters CEO Virginia Kase, and UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry explain the stakes:

"The failure of the U.S. Senate to make a modest investment in our democracy stands in sharp contrast to the huge sums flowing towards those who need it the least. Wealthy corporations have captured a large share of the federal spending that was supposed to help workers and small businesses. Companies are winning trillions in economic aid, including billions in tax breaks for fossil fuel polluters. And now businesses are pressing for protection against liability from COVID-related lawsuits.

In the midst of this maneuvering for private gain, we’re glad to see a segment of the U.S. business community speak for the public interest, with a call for Congress to provide the “necessary funding for safe voting upgrades.” But more private sector voices are needed join this chorus, with the full weight of their lobbying capacity and political muscle.

We are faced with an underfunded electoral system, a deliberate slowdown of the U.S Postal Service, and continued voter suppression. This is unacceptable. No one should let stand overcrowded and unsafe voting places and an untold number of voters disenfranchised – especially in Black and brown communities."

Read the full op-ed here. Click here to retweet our tweet sharing the op-ed.

TRAINING AND MOVEMENT BUILDING UPDATES

100 DAYS OF TRAINING: MAKE A PLAN
Democracy Initiative Education Fund’s training efforts are continuing full speed with less than 70 days to go. We are training activists this year to become VBM Captains, election workers, and poll monitors in key states. Our priority states are FL, GA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NM, PA, VA, and WI. In September, we are partnering with UAW Region 9A to train their members.

NETROOTS NATION PANEL AND TRAINING RECORDINGS LIVE:
Videos of our recent Netroots Nation trainings are available below. Check them out and be sure to sign up for training for your organization here.

DELIVERING FOR AMERICA ACT PASSED BY HOUSE

On August 21, DI co-authored with Declaration for American Democracy a letter urging the House to pass the Delivering for America Act, a critical piece of legislation that would provide $25 billion in immediate support to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and overturn Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent operational changes, which have resulted in an unprecedented slowdown in U.S. Mail. As the letter says,

"However, recent efforts by President Trump and his new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have threatened to undermine the USPS at a time when many Americans depend on this vital service more than ever. Tens of millions of Americans will rely on the USPS this year to vote by mail, register to vote, and receive polling information, and it is unconscionable that during a pandemic, Postmaster General DeJoy is decommissioning about ten percent of the USPS’s bulk sorting machines (671 machines nationwide), removing or “re-positioning” hundreds of mailboxes, and instructing mail carriers to leave certain mail behind."

The House passed the Delivering for America Act the following day. Read the letter here.

Our thanks to the 55 organizations who signed on, including DI partners American Family Voices, American Federation of Teachers, Clean Water Action, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Demos Action, Franciscan Action Network, Friends of the Earth Action, Free Speech for People, Greenpeace USA, Jobs with Justice, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the United States, NAACP, National Education Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, People for the American Way, Progressive Turnout Project, Public Citizen, SEIU, Sierra Club, Small Planet Institute, UnidosUS, United Auto Workers, and Voices for Progress.

DI, alongside partners Arab American Institute, Common Cause, Center for Popular Democracy, Communications Workers of America, Democracy Matters, Franciscan Action Network, Greenpeace USA, Progressive Turnout Project, Public Citizen, SEIU, and Voices for Progress also signed on to a letter authored by End Citizens United urging the Senate to pass the Delivering for America bill, which can be read here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 75 organizations, representing over 45 million members, is seeking a highly energetic and creative Campaign Strategist to build campaign goals, strategies, tactics, and strategically align the engagement of our coalition partners and community allies at the local and state level to mobilize around our Democracy 365 Platform—21st-century voting rights, money in politics, and equal representation.

Working at the DI offers a unique, exciting opportunity to be at the center of intersectional movement building in a fast-paced environment to shift political will by breaking structural obstacles to pass transformational social justice policy.

See the full posting here.

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Democracy Initiative Update 08.10.20

Monday, August 10, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

TUES, AUG 11: #PROTECTOURVOTE VIRTUAL TOWN HALL

People must be able to vote safely in November. Senate Republicans, however, are blocking key funding needed to #ProtectOurVote and ensure all Americans can safely cast their ballots this November. Join us tomorrow, August 11 at 7:30-8:30pm EST for a virtual town hall hosted by the Declaration for American Democracy Coalition featuring:

To RSVP for the call, click here. For partner organizations interested in cross-posting the live event on their Facebook page, contact Aswar Rahman at aswar@dfadcoalition.org.

AUGUST 12 MOBILIZING CALL AGENDA

Join us for our next DI mobilizing call scheduled Wednesday, August 12 at 3:00 pm EST. RSVP here.

Our agenda will cover the following:

  1. Sign up for a Democracy Champions Vote by Mail Training: Our Training and Movement Building Coordinator Brittny Baxter will present on our ongoing 100 Days of Training initiative. DI is on track to train 3,000 activists this year to become VBM Captains, election workers/volunteers, and poll monitors in key states. We are working with partners to schedule trainings to support the grassroots campaigns that demand safe, secure voting options for all. If your organization wants to host a training with your members, or sign up your staff to participate in upcoming Train the Trainers training, we encourage you to come prepared with questions and training asks for your organization.
  2. State Update: Michigan held their Primary Election last week with a record 2.5 million people voting and nearly 1.6 million absentee ballots cast. We will be joined by Loida Tapia with the Michigan Election Protection Program to share some lessons learned from the field and identify support needs for the November election.
  3. Federal Fight: Stimulus 4: As the ongoing Senate negotiations heat up regarding the next federal stimulus package, we will share a legislative update and discuss opportunities to ensure $3.6 billion in funding for election assistance and $25 billion in support for the USPS. We will also share an updated social media toolkit.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. RSVP here or email Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org for more information.

TAKE ACTION: TELL CONGRESS TO PROVIDE $$ FOR ELECTIONS AND USPS

On Tuesday, July 28, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans revealed their answer to the House’s stimulus package: the HEALS Act, a disgraceful proposal that provisions $0 for emergency election assistance or the besieged U.S. Postal Service.

In a statement released Wednesday, July 29, the Democracy Initiative called on corporate CEOs to use the full weight of their lobbying capacity and political muscle to join the fight for $3.6 billion in emergency election funding. The Senate must follow the House’s leadership and allocate $3.6 billion to pay for election costs and $25 billion for our public Postal Service. The ability of the states and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure a safe, reliable, secure and accessible election in November depends on it.

The need for a strong, unified call from all stakeholders for safe, accessible, and fair elections has never been more important. Now is the time to keep the pressure up by activating your members and taking action on social media:

  • Social Media Tools: Use your social media channels to amplify the call for corporate CEOs to join the fight for the $3.6 billion for election funding and $25 billion for the USPS. We have created a set of plug & play social media tools available here: Corporate CEO Challenge & Election Funding Social Media Toolkit.
  • Activate Your Members: Ask your members in the key states to contact their Senators at 202-224-3121 and urge them to approve $3.6 billion for election administration and $25 billion for the Post Office to help states ensure safe equitable elections this year.

For more information, please contact DI National Field Manager Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

TRAINING AND MOVEMENT BUILDING UPDATES

100 DAYS OF TRAINING: DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS FOR VOTE BY MAIL
The Democracy Initiative is continuing our training initiative with another Vote By Mail Democracy Champions Train the Trainer (T3) Cohort. We are well on our way to train 3,000 activists this year to become VBM Captains, election workers/volunteers, and poll monitors in key states. Our priority states are FL, GA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NM, PA, VA, and WI. Thanks to our partner A. Philip Randolph Institute, we held a successful T3 in North Carolina with Black Voters Matter.

We are working with DI partners to schedule training to support the grassroots campaigns that demand safe, secure voting options for all. If your organization wants to host a training, or sign up staff to participate in upcoming training, sign up here. Our next T3 is Tuesday, August 18 at 6:00pm EST. For more information, contact Brittny Baxter, DI Training Coordinator at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org.

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NETROOTS NATION PANELS, TRAININGS AND SCHOLARSHIPS
Netroots Nation is offering scholarships for Black and brown organizers to attend the virtual conference this week, August 13 - 15. If you know an organizer that can’t afford to attend, contact Brittny Baxter at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org. If you are planning on attending, check out the DI’s events:

Training: Democracy Champions: Connecting Democracy, Power, and Kitchen Table Issues
Time:
Friday, August 14 at 11:00 AM EST
Facilitators: Joanne Antoine, Common Cause; Brittny Baxter, Democracy Initiative

To win on the issues that impact our lives: workers' rights, environmental justice, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, immigration reform, etc. - we must have a base of grassroots activists who are passionate about their kitchen table issues to make the link to democracy reforms. Collectively, we will expand our leadership and capacity for local and state campaigns and build a demand for reform.

Waging a War Against Disinformation and Misinformation: How to Win Using Inoculation and Facts
Time:
Friday, August 14 at 11:00am EST
Trainer: Wendy Fields, Democracy Initiative

This cycle we are witnessing an unprecedented, corporate backed misinformation and disinformation campaign. Lies are being weaponized to stoke fear and uncertainty.These campaigns are designed to sow confusion, and ultimately suppress voter turnout. Our greatest defense will be preemptively arming the public with the truth and tactics to separate real from fake news. Defending our democracy calls for widespread inoculation efforts for the public against this well-funded mis/disinformation campaign. This training will clearly define misinformation and disinformation, provide tips on how to identify trustworthy information sources, and equip participants with the basic steps of a proper inoculation conversation.

Panel: Democracy No Longer Deferred: Following Most Impacted Leaders is a Winning Strategy
Time:
Saturday, August 15 at 11:00am EST
Moderator: Marilyn Carpinteyro, Common Cause
Panelists: Doug Moore, United Domestic Workers of America; Jonathan Butler, Greenpeace USA; Bill Cobb, Formerly ACLU; Maya Berry, Arab American Institute

In our current democracy, wealthy interests disenfranchise, disregard and exploit groups that have historically been labeled as the "Other." Our efforts to achieve a fair, inclusive democracy cannot happen without leadership from these communities. Hear from activists fighting for workers, moms, immigrants, LGBTQ+ and differently-abled folks and against racism, the climate crisis, and poverty on how they are fighting, and winning, for their communities to be represented in our democracy

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BAYARD RUSTIN DEMOCRACY FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
Our Mentoring Program Orientation was a huge success, with an amazing and diverse cohort, but desperately need women of color to volunteer as mentors. If you are willing to mentor a talented young organizer of color or know someone suited to, please sign up here.

TOOLS FOR ELECTION OFFICIALS: COMMS & OPERATIONS

Election officials across the country have been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to adapt rapidly in their preparations for administering elections this year. In response, many states have moved to expand Vote by Mail (VBM), a system which requires significant planning and resources to equitably implement in time.

Our partners at the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI) have developed two tools for election officials to prepare voters for VBM: the Operations Toolkit and the Communications Toolkit. We encourage our partners who have relationships with election officials and clerks to share these resources with their networks.

The Operations Toolkit features the Calculator, an excel spreadsheet tool designed for election officials to consider what staffing, space, and other resources are needed to plan for in serving a large number of mail voters. It allows election officials to input data and simulate multiple scenarios to improve resource allocation. The toolkit also includes a guide sheet and instructional video.

The Communications Toolkit is designed to augment the communications capacity of election offices, providing visuals, sample language, and a communications plan, any combination of which can be plugged into existing efforts to accommodate the influx of mail ballot requests from voters.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

MARYLAND
During the state’s June primary election, the rapid action Maryland election officials, community groups, vendors, postal workers, and voters took to ensure voters could safely cast their ballots resulted in the highest turnout Baltimore City had seen since 1987. In a July 8 press conference, however, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the November elections would proceed as normal. COVID-19 cases surged in the state and around the country in the weeks that followed. DI partners from the Everyone Votes Maryland coalition held a critical press conference on Wednesday July 28 to discuss the public health, logistical, budget, and civil rights considerations impacting the administration of the November election. Hogan has implied that he is powerless to change the General Election process, a claim rebuked by legal scholars pointing to his powers under the current state of emergency.

Read more here.

MICHIGAN
Michigan’s primary elections held August 4 decisively broke the state’s record for primary turnout. Nearly 2.5 million people cast their ballots on Tuesday, with 1.6 million mailed ballots making up over 60% of the total votes cast. Michigan voters were able to take advantage of no-excuse absentee voting provision that voters overwhelmingly passed in 2018. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson facilitated voters’ access to the ballot by sending absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million registered voters. In a statement issued Thursday, she said “What August showed is we can hold safe, accessible and secure elections in the midst of a pandemic.”

Read more.

IOWA
In an executive order signed into law Wednesday, August 5, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds restored formerly incarcerated Iowans the right to vote after completion of their sentences. With this act, Iowa is no longer the only state to categorically revoke the ability to vote from people convicted of felonies. The order will restore voting rights to an estimated 40,000 people who have completed their time, a victory for the grassroots activists and partner organizations who have been working on this issue for several years. Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, said “Now our work is to make sure that people are registered and understand as of today they don’t need to do paperwork, they don’t need to do anything like that. As of today they are allowed to vote.”

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Update 07.24.20

Friday, July 24, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.

STATEMENT: Trump’s Attempt to Exclude Immigrants FROM THE CENSUS

On Tuesday, July 21, President Trump issued a memorandum calling for the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the constitutionally mandated count of persons residing in the United States for the 2020 Census. The memo is the latest in a series of attempts to tamper with the Census in order to affect the count that determines Congressional representation and billions of dollars in funding for communities.

Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative, gave the following statement:

“Donald Trump doesn’t know how to count. We do.

“Immigrants count, regardless of their immigration status. Black people count. Brown people count. Everyone from historically underserved communities counts.

“The U.S. Census is required to count everyone; there is no provision for excluding people the current president doesn’t like. We stand with our allies in the civil rights community, and we will not allow this administration to disrupt the Census.”

Led by DI partner Common Cause, several advocacy groups filed suit against Trump on Thursday, July 23 in response to the memo. In a statement, Karen Hobert Flynn, DI Board Co-Chair and President of Common Cause, said:

“The Constitution is unambiguous in its requirements relating to the census count and reapportionment of Congressional seats—all persons must be counted. This directive simply ignores those requirements in an unconstitutional attempt to manipulate the process for racial advantage and partisan political gain.”

TAKE ACTION

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED FOR 2020 ELECTION FUNDING

There is still time to take action in support of federal funding for safe and equitable elections!

Many thanks to those of you already generating calls and getting the word out on social media, including DI partners and allies ACLU, AFL-CIO, Brennan Center, Campaign Legal Center, Clean Water Action, Common Cause, Franciscan Action Network, Greenpeace USA, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, League of Women Voters, MoveOn, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Action Network, National Vote at Home Institute, NETWORK, New American Leaders, PFAW, Progressive Turnout Project, Public Citizen, SEIU, Sierra Club, and UnidosUS.

If your organization hasn’t sent out an alert yet, now is a good time to do so. We expect Senate Republicans to soon announce a proposal for COVID emergency funding. Even if the first version of their bill includes some election funding, we will need to keep up the pressure as they head into negotiations with the House, who have already passed the HEROES Act, which includes the necessary $3.6 billion for elections and $25 billion for the USPS. We will keep you posted as the negotiations heat up, but please activate your members and social media channels now!

Here’s how you can take action:

  • Take Action on Social Media: Call for the Senate to provide the necessary funding for our November election, and tag the DI (@unite4democracy on Twitter, @democracyinitiative on FB) and key Senate targets. Check out our COVID-19 Voting Social Media Toolkit for sample tweets and FB posts.
  • Activate Your Members: Ask your members in the key states to contact their Senators at 202-224-3121 and urge them to approve $3.6 billion for election administration and $25 billion for the Post Office to help states ensure safe equitable elections this year. Feel free to cut and paste from this email into your own action alert.

We are currently focusing our grassroots efforts on these Senators: Martha McSally (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), David Perdue (R-GA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Susan Collins (R-ME), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

These are the key points to make in communications to key Senators:

  • The Senate must approve the House-passed $3.6 billion for expansion of VBM, early voting, and online & same day registration, so that states have enough time to make the necessary changes to expand Vote by Mail and early voting, recruit and train workers, buy equipment, and do outreach to the public about new voting processes.
  • For expanded VBM to work, Congress must also adequately fund the U.S. Postal Service, which has suffered grave revenue losses due to the pandemic. The House-passed HEROES Act includes $25 billion for the USPS. The Senate should follow the House’s lead.

If your organization is taking action please or if you have any questions about this action, please contact DI National Field Manager Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

UPLIFT OUR PARTNERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

TRAINING AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING

The Democracy Initiative Education Fund (DIEF) has launched its virtual Democracy Champions: Vote by Mail Edition training series. On Sunday, July 26, the DIEF is launching our 100 Days of Training, a massive push to recruit, train, and place a diverse and motivated set of volunteers in key roles. If you have affiliates, activists, or members in FL, GA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NM, PA, VA, and WI, we encourage you to sign up to host a training.

Our standing training dates for the remainder of the cycle are as follows:

Tuesdays: 6:00pm-8:00pm EST
Thursdays: 12:00pm-2:00 pm EST
Saturdays: 10:00am -12:00 pm EST
Sundays: 5:00pm - 7:00 pm EST

We are happy to consider other times if these slots don't work for your members.

BAYARD RUSTIN FELLOWSHIP
The application deadline for the Bayard Rustin Democracy Fellowship Program is fast approaching! This year we will be hosting two fellows: A Training and Movement Building Fellow, who will help support the 100 Days training initiative, and a Digital Campaigner, who will support the Vote by Mail campaign’s organizing efforts online. The deadline to apply for either position will close Monday, July 27. If you know of someone who would be good for this position, please encourage them to apply by Monday!

To recommend a fellow, fill out this form.
To sign up to be a fellow, fill out this form.

For questions, connect with Brittny Baxter at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org.

PARTNER CORNER

DRAD AND NCAC DENOUNCE TRUMP'S DEPLOYMENT OF FEDERAL AGENTS TO US CITIES

In response to the Trump administration’s deployment of federal agents to Portland and other major cities, Defending Rights and Dissent (DRAD) and National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), alongside 50 advocacy and issue groups, issued a statement condemning the action. The Democracy Initiative is a proud member of DRAD, and we have written elsewhere on the importance of defending the right to demonstrate and taking collective action to the democracy movement.

In the joint statement, the groups wrote:

“The use of unidentified militarized federal forces against the wishes of local officials, the exercise of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and the seemingly arbitrary detention of some of them without a clear reason for arrest are designed to intimidate protesters into surrendering their First Amendment rights.

“We condemn these practices. We call for all unwanted federal forces to be removed from Portland and urge Congress to investigate the pattern and practice of abuses against protesters.”

Liz Butler, Vice President of Organizing and Strategic Alliances at DI partner Friends of the Earth, gave the following statement:

“Friends of the Earth condemns Trump’s authoritarian crackdown in Portland, where unaccountable federal forces are deliberately escalating the situation to justify violence against protesters. It is disturbing to see Trump deploy the brutal tactics of dictators he has publicly praised to stomp out opposition here in the U.S.

Horrifyingly, Trump has stated that his action in Portland is part of a deliberate plan to expand state-sponsored violence in cities across the country. Trump named a number of additional cities he intends to deploy unaccountable federal forces to shortly as a part of ‘Operation Legend.’ This escalation of tactics, targeted at Black Lives Matter protestors, should raise deep concerns for environmental and climate activists and anyone committed to our democratic institutions.

There is cause for hope. Instead of being intimidated, people from across the region, including thousands of moms, have flooded the streets of Portland to defend the right to protest. We will need heroes like this in the coming months to defend our democracy.

The right to protest is fundamental to our efforts and our democracy. We must collectively condemn these violent tactics.”

The League of Women Voters of the United States board of directors and the League of Women Voters Education Fund board of trustees issued the following statement in response to the federal agents’ attacks on protestors:

“The increasing number of attacks on our democracy by some elected leaders and appointed members of our government are violating the first amendment rights of people in this country and requires our organization to speak out against the actions of this administration.

“On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection division confirmed that it deployed officers from three paramilitary-style units to act against protestors in Portland, Oregon. Dressed in unidentifiable military gear, in unmarked vehicles, our government unleashed a wave of fear and intimidation against people executing their Constitutional right of free speech.

“This administration’s tactics all too closely resemble authoritarianism. We have seen out of control leaders, past and present, who have used their power to intimidate, attack, or arrest their opponents in the name of ‘law and order.’ These actions are unpatriotic and un-American.

“The League of Women Voters is calling on the President and his administration to put an end to these unconstitutional acts. We also call on Congress to exercise its power to hold the administration accountable, immediately investigate the Department of Homeland Security and any other government agency involved in these heinous acts, and stand up for American democracy.

“The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. We neither support nor endorse candidates or political parties. For 100 years the League has stood firm in the belief that government has a responsibility to represent and serve the interests of the people, not individuals in power.”

Read the full letter here.

DECLARATION FOR AMERICAN DEMOCRACY LETTER FOR COVID ELECTION FUNDING
The DI joined the Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD), of which we are a proud member, and 30 other partners and allies in calling for the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration—the Senate committee in charge of allocating election funding—to support the $3.6 billion in emergency election funding proposed in the HEROES Act in a letter sent on Tuesday, July 22.

DI partners Common Cause, Franciscan Action Network, Greenpeace USA, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the United States, New American Leaders Action Fund, Progressive Turnout Project, Public Citizen, SEIU, and Voices for Progress also signed the letter.

You can read the letter here.

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