The DI Report

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 10.25.19

Friday, October 25, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

#FIREDRILLFRIDAY—VOTE. SPEAK. ACT.

Two weeks ago, Wendy joined Jane Fonda, Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, Stephen Kretzmann, Founder & Executive Director of Oil Change International, and other visionary activists by taking direct action on the steps of the Capitol, the first of a series of actions known as #FireDrillFridays.

As one of sixteen activists who were arrested for refusing to step down after three warnings, Wendy put herself on the line and was arrested because this is a fight that clearly illustrates how powerful corporate interests are using their wealth and political influence to destroy our planet for huge profits. The transformative changes we need now will not come as a result of debate or the usual tactics.

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields published a blog post reflecting on her experiences taking direct action with Jane Fonda and the #FireDrillFriday group taking a stand for the environment. The piece makes clear the connection between climate change and democracy:

Our democracy has been deliberately broken. We will not succeed in moving to a renewable energy economy if we don’t win the fight for clean, fair elections, and a government that works for all of us. It will take all of us showing up for democracy to confront and prevail against this kind of power. It will require a bottom-up, grassroots demand from environmental, labor unions, civil rights, and social justice sectors, particularly those affected most: workers, marginalized communities of black and brown people, and those in urban and rural poverty.

Restoring the promise of our democracy means protecting and expanding voting rights to achieve at least 75 percent voter turnout in 2020 and in every election going forward. It means stopping the flow of corporate money and dark money into our political system. It means stopping the abuse of power in the Senate that enables the wealthy to get their tax cuts while critical priorities like immigration, gun control, worker’s rights, and more don’t even get a vote.

Please share this important account of the action with your colleagues and members on social media.

We encourage our DC-area partners to get inspired and take action with Jane Fonda #FireDrillFriday each Friday until January 10, 2020, from 11am - 12pm on the Capitol Lawn. Tune in and share the Thursday Teach-Ins on Facebook. Join activists and leaders at a rally with expert and celebrity speakers, and then an optional civil disobedience. You can learn more here.

It will take all of us showing up differently and creating a bottom up, grassroots demand from environmental, labor, civil rights, and social justice activists. 

2019 ANNUAL MEETING—BUILD TOWARD 75% TURNOUT

Imagine a world where every election reaches consistent 75% voter turnout. Imagine the transformational change we could bring about on all the issues our coalition's members care about. Building toward consistent 75% turnout will help us set the table for real, structural reform in 2021 and beyond. Join us on November 12 at the Annual Meeting to discuss our plan to get there and more.

We are now accepting RSVP’s for the 2019 DI Annual Meeting! Partner organization principals and key staff are encouraged to RSVP now! Contact Christopher Honey at choney@democracyinitiative.org for more information.

TAKE ACTION WITH LOCAL CAMPAIGNS

VOTE BY MAIL—WASHINGTON, DC
The Washing DC Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety are holding a hearing for the Vote By Mail Amendment on October 30 at 10am in Room 123. The legislation would require the Board of Elections to offer paper ballots for all elections to be mailed or dropped off at designated locations, increase the ease and accessibility of voting, and improve turnout in the District.

ACTION:

  • Encourage your staff and members in DC to show up in support of the VBM Amendment on October 30!
  • We encourage DI partners willing to give testimony to do so at the hearing next week. The sign up form to be a witness can be found here.

RANK THE VOTE—NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
On Tuesday, November 5, New York City voters will have the opportunity to update and reform local elections by voting Yes on 1 and bringing Ranked Choice Voting to New York. Starting in 2021, voters would be able rank up to 5 candidates in primary and special elections to give every New York City voter more voice and more choice. Early voting starts in 5 days on Oct 26!

ACTION:

DEMOCRACY DOLLARS—ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Democracy Dollars gives the power back to the people—at no extra cost to the taxpayer—by letting public candidates raise small contributions from regular people who normally wouldn’t participate in funding campaigns. Early voting has already started.

ACTION:

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

FLORIDA—JUDGE OVERRULES LAW REQUIRING RETURNING CITIZENS TO PAY COURT FINES BEFORE VOTING

On Friday, October 19, returning citizens in Florida took another step toward regaining their full ability to vote. A federal judge ruled that the state can’t prevent formerly incarcerated individuals from voting based on their ability to pay court-ordered fines and fees. The ruling is an important step forward after Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a law in June requiring newly enfranchised Floridians to pay all fines and fees before they’re able to vote—a reaction to 65% of Florida voters overwhelmingly supporting restoring the vote to 1.4 million returning citizens.

Desmond Meade, 2017 Democracy Champion and President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said:

“We’re steadily moving forward, focusing on registering returning citizens and helping folks with fines and fees to remove that barrier.”

Read more here.

INDIANA—PAPER BALLOTS ADVOCATES CLAIM STATE MOVING TOO SLOW TO REFIT VOTING MACHINES

According to the nonprofit Indiana Vote by Mail, Indiana is not moving fast enough to secure its voting machines against election interference ahead of the 2020 election. The state currently relies on “direct recording electronic” (DRE) voting machines in 58 of 92 counties, machines which leave no paper trail.

Indiana secretary of state Connie Lawson allocated $6 million to retrofit the machines to produce voter-verified paper audit trails, but the solution only would fix 10% of the affected machines. An earlier attempt to secure $75 million for the project was denied by governor Eric Holcomb. Lawson recently claimed the DRE machines were immune to hacking because they aren’t connected to the internet. In a test conducted earlier this year, volunteer hackers successfully gained access to every state voting system they chose to target.

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE—CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER

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

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

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 10.10.19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DI PARTNERS IN SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKING WORKERS

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

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

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

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

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

JOIN US AT THE 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

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

RSVP HERE

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

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

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

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

PARTNER CORNER

TAKE ACTION—LET NEW YORK VOTE EARLY!

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

Here are two ways to get your members engaged:

CLEAN WATER ACTION ANNUAL CELEBRATION

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

ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE HOSTS EMEL MATHLOUTHI

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

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

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

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

FLORIDA—RETURNING CITIZENS DISCOURAGED FROM REGISTERING TO VOTE

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

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

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

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES WITHOUT ADDRESSES AT RISK FOR ELECTIONS & 2020 CENSUS

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

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

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

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE—CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER

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

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

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 09.27.19

Friday, September 27, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

WE STAND UNITED IN SOLIDARITY WITH UAW WORKERS

As of today, the 48,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members have been striking General Motors (GM) for thirteen days.

Now is the time for all of us to stand with UAW members holding the line.

Right now, we’re circulating a sign-on letter in support of the UAW members out on strike to demonstrate our unity across issues in this fight. If you would like to opt-out of this joint statement, email Christopher Honey at choney@democracyinitiative.org by 5:30pm EST today. We’re also collecting statements of support from our partner organizations to share with UAW leadership; we encourage you to share your statements so that the workers on strike know that they have our support.

Two days ago, the House Committee on Education and Labor advanced to the House of Representatives the most ambitious and comprehensive pro-worker legislation since the National Labor Relations Act. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would codify important protections for all working people to form and join unions; the advancement of PRO is a major victory for the backbone of this country. Yesterday, GM began covering healthcare of striking workers again after kicking coverage to the UAW on the third day of the strike. The rank and file members have been standing strong and unified, and we are in complete solidarity as they fight for their fair share.

In response to the UAW worker strike demanding fair pay and affordable quality health care, former DI board member and Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard said:

"Greenpeace is in solidarity with the UAW strikers, without question. With little more than a decade left to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need people power to fight corporate greed and those hell-bent on putting our planet and workers in the crosshairs. These workers deserve real accountability now and it starts with fair pay, affordable quality health care and a pathway towards a better future for these families."

DI board member and NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson gave the following statement:

"I am proud to stand with 50,000 UAW workers on strike fighting for fair wages, affordable health care and job security.”

On Wednesday, September 18, Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields released a statement expressing total solidarity with UAW members on strike at GM and making it clear that the right to organize for good jobs is central to our democracy. You can read it here.

TOMORROW: BALTIMORE DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING!

Democracy Initiative will be partnering with Baltimore Fair Elections, Baltimore NAACP, Fair Elections Maryland, and RepresentUs MD to hold a Democracy Champions Popular Education Training in Baltimore on September 28, 2019!

Participants will come together to learn about power and democracy’s influence in their everyday lives; they’ll also gain real understanding of their own community’s power to stand up to the corporations and outside money that maintains the status quo. Please spread the word and encourage your Baltimore staff and members to attend!

When: Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 9:30am – 2:00pm
Where: Function Coworking Community, 4709 Harford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

Any questions should be directed to our Training and Movement Building Coordinator, Brittny Baxter at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org.

RSVP NOW! DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

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

RSVP HERE

Additionally, please complete our 2019 Annual Meeting Survey to provide critical input into DI strategy in 2020 and 2021 by sharing your organization’s priorities, as well as nominate candidates for our 3rd Annual Democracy Champions Award Reception following the meeting. In order to submit organizational priorities and Democracy Champions nominations, please complete the Annual Meeting Survey here.

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

#SHUTDOWNDC DISRUPTS BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR CLIMATE ACTION

Last Friday, September 20, people across the world went out into the streets to fight for the climate.On Monday, September 23, DI partners and allies 350.org, Black Lives Matter DC, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace participated in collective action in the streets of Washington DC by shutting down over 20 intersections. The action’s design was to “disrupt business as usual” and acutely bring attention to the climate crisis and the corporations and institutions responsible.

At a time when our right to demonstrate is under attack by the same corporations and special interests who are most responsible for the climate crisis, disrupting business as usual sends a powerful message: our right to dissent is a weapon for change.

From the the action’s FAQ about choosing disruption:

“We’ve done permitted rallies and marches, we’ve petitioned, we’ve drafted legislation, we’ve done symbolic civil disobedience, we’ve locked ourselves to drilling equipment in the back woods to shut down fracking sites and pipeline routes where normal people wouldn’t be inconvenienced. And right now we’re further away from serious action on climate change than we were three years ago. Young people around the world have called for bold and dramatic action to protect the world that they are going to inherit. We think it’s time to do something different, we’re ready to take that step and we invite you to join us.”

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

CALIFORNIA—LEGISLATURE ADVANCES SAME-DAY REGISTRATION TO GOVERNOR

On Wednesday, September 11, California’s legislature became the twelfth state to pass same-day Registration, a reform gaining momentum around the country that allows voters to register to vote and cast their ballot on the day of an election. Previously, California had passed a limited version of this law in 2012 that authorized certain county election offices to offer same day registration, but this led to notoriously long lines and other difficulties for voters to cast their ballots on Election Day. Should the newly passed bill be signed into law by the governor, California will expand same-day registration to every polling location in the state, making it easier for Americans to participate in our democracy. We expect the bill to be signed into law soon.

We cannot understate the importance of same-day registration, both as a reform that expands access to the ballot and protects voters from unlawful purging. We want to recognize the hard work of DI partner League of Women Voters among others for their work in pushing for this critical reform.

Read more here.

MCCONNELL APPROVES WEAKENED "ELECTION SECURITY"

Mitch McConnell, after shutting down election security bill after election security, “relented” last Thursday September 19 by cosponsoring a $250 million allocation of funding to state election officials. The move comes after pressure from election security advocates to fund paper ballot systems after an intelligence community report indicated that Russian agents had tampered with elections in all 50 states.

McConnell attempted to turn around and claim support for funding election security, but only did so after the bill removed provisions for explicitly directing states how to spend the funds, leaving open the possibility that some of the money could be spent on election matters other than security.

Read more here.

KENTUCKYSTATE IMPROPERLY PURGED 150,000 VOTERS WEEKS BEFORE UPCOMING ELECTION

According to a statement by the Kentucky Democratic Party, 150,000 voters have been placed inaccurately on an “inactive” list less than two months before the state’s 2019 elections. Democratic Chairman Ben Self, in a letter to the State Board of Elections, claimed “SBE deactivated the voter registration of more than 150,000 Kentuckians behind closed doors with no public notice,” jeopardizing their ability to cast their ballots for governor, attorney general and other state offices.

While the SBE claims these voters potentially satisfy their criteria for “inactivity,” the affected voters cannot be confirmed inactive until after two federal elections have occurred since their last activity, which wouldn’t be until 2022—thereby spreading misinformation and potentially dissuading voters from going to the polls.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 09.23.19

Monday, September 23, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

DI STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKING UAW GENERAL MOTORS WORKERS

Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative, released a statement last Thursday expressing total solidarity with United Auto Worker (UAW) members on strike at General Motors (GM) and making it clear that the right to organize for good jobs is central to our democracy.

“This is a fight for good jobs in the US. Jobs in manufacturing created the American middle class and built the backbone of America. That is why the Democracy Initiative pledges to be one with the striking UAW workers! In a democracy, the power of the people can send a loud message to counter the power of corporate greed. It’s time to return democracy—the power of the people— to its rightful place as the foundation of this country.”

We encourage you to share Wendy’s statement alongside your own personal and/or organizational statements of support. If you post any statement in support of the striking UAW members on Twitter, please tag @unite4democracy and we will retweet it. We will also be compiling statements of support from the DI community to demonstrate our unity across issues in this fight, so share yours with us and we will include it.

See the full statement.

GREENPEACE ACTIVIST JONATHAN BUTLER BOLDLY TAKES ACTION AGAINST FOSSIL FUEL INTERESTS

On September 12, hours before the third Democratic presidential debate in Houston, two dozen activists from DI partner Greenpeace disrupted fossil fuel transport in Texas by rappelling off a bridge over the Houston Ship Channel. The activists knew that this direct action would run afoul of Texas’ new “critical infrastructure” bill, a ploy by fossil fuel giants and the right-wing legislation mill ALEC designed to criminalize pipeline protests. According to Greenpeace general counsel Tom Wetterer:

“‘Critical infrastructure' laws like Texas' were created by oil and gas lobbyists and secretive groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council to restrict First Amendment rights and to try to bring to bear extraordinary consequences for legitimate protests. This is a bullying tactic that serves the interests of corporations at the expense of people exercising their right to free speech.”

So far nine states have passed this kind of anti-protest legislation and it has been proposed in many others. We must be clear that the coordinated attack on dissent by special interests is a direct attack on our democracy. Without our ability to stand up and exercise our First Amendment rights in the fact of voter suppression, corporate hijacking of our government, or broad social injustice, we cannot secure the reforms our community and country need. The right to demonstrate is critical for all of us: labor, civil rights, environmental justice, and democracy—the Voting Rights Act would never have been passed without Americans taking direct action to challenge power. Democracy Initiative is proud to be a member of the Defending Rights & Dissent Coalitions, which is leading the fight against these undemocratic laws.

Among the Greenpeace activists who took direct action was Jonathan Butler, who courageously put his own safety on the line and risked two years in prison to disrupt fossil fuel exports and assert his, and all Americans', right to speak truth to power just days after the anti-protest law went into effect. Jonathan’s bold and decisive action, especially in the face of a carceral system that poses a disproportionately dangerous risk to people of color and marginalized communities, perfectly encapsulates the essential values of the democracy movement.

That’s why we’re more than proud to work with Jonathan, and more than proud to have him as a critical player on our team. We salute his bravery and courage, and he deserves to know that he has the full, uncritical support of the entire democracy movement behind him. If you have any messages or statements of support, email them to jflynn@democracyinitiative.org and we’ll pass them along.

We’ve reproduced Jonathan’s statement following his release in full below.

"For all the reasons I could list for why I participated in this action, all the things that keep me up at night, the main reason is my family. My nieces and nephew. I think about the future I am working towards, and the future I want for them. Climate change is here and now but it's only going to get worse: more floods, more mega storms, and more fires. I want them to live in a world where they have access to clean water, clean air, and healthy food. I wanted to do all that I can and put my body on the line because their lives are important to me.

We have to do the work necessary for a better life, for a better planet. That's why I am here, and that’s what I'm working for. If we are all going to survive climate crisis, we the people must take back power from Trump and the fossil fuel industry — this is the time our movement demands a reckoning."

Read more here.

BALTIMORE DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING & FAIR ELECTIONS HEARING

Democracy Initiative will be partnering with Baltimore Fair Elections to hold a Democracy Champions Popular Education Training in Baltimore on Friday, September 28, 2019! Please spread the word and encourage your Baltimore staff and members to attend!

When: Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 9:30am – 2:00pm
Where: Function Coworking Community, 4709 Harford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

The training is open to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of advancing reforms like this bill, as well as how to talk about democracy and power in Baltimore and across Maryland. Any questions should be directed to our Training and Movement Building Coordinator, Brittny Baxter at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org.

On September 17, Baltimoreans and partners turned out to the Fair Election Fund public hearing to voice their overwhelming support for the Fair Election Fund. Written and spoken testimony consistently pointed to the program’s potential to eliminate the influence of outside wealthy donors over Baltimore politics, increase overall resident participation, and allow local candidates to focus on generating support from the communities they’ll represent. In a study conducted by Maryland PIRG on the Montgomery County version of the program, program participants relied on small donor contributions for 98% of their funding, compared to 3% from candidates who fundraised in the traditional manner.

We want to recognize our partners and allies Baltimore Teachers Union, Common Cause Maryland, Demos, Get Money Out of MD, Jews United for Justice, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, League of Women Voters of Maryland, and NAACP for showing up to provide testimony and support the people of Baltimore in their fight for fair, people-powered elections.

SEPTEMBER 25 MOBILIZING MEETING AGENDA: JOIN US FOR 2020 & 2021 DI CAMPAIGN PLANNING!

Wednesday, September 25, 3PM EST / NOON PST
We are having an important Mobilizing Meeting this week, Wednesday, September 25th at 3 pm EST where we will kick off our campaign planning for 2020 and 2021. We will have a wide-ranging discussion about developing a campaign strategy to increase turnout, win major state-level democracy reforms, and set the table to govern and pass transformative legislation in 2021. We want to hear your best ideas, your priorities, and how the DI can help you meet the challenges you face.
In addition, we are very fortunate that the legislative director of the United Auto Workers (UAW), Josh Nassar, will joining us at the Sept. 25 Mobilizing Meeting to provide an update on ways to support the UAW General Motors (GM) strike that has galvanized our movement. This is an important moment for all progressives and we need to stand in solidarity with the UAW and commit to being strong allies in this fight. Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative, released a statement yesterday expressing strong solidarity with UAW members who are on strike at GM and making it clear that the right to organize for good jobs is central to our democracy.
For more information and to RSVP, email Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

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

Additionally, please complete our 2019 Annual Meeting Survey to provide critical input into DI strategy in 2020 and 2021 by sharing your organization’s priorities, as well as nominate candidates for our 3rd Annual Democracy Champions Award Reception following the meeting. In order to submit organizational priorities and Democracy Champions nominations, please complete the Annual Meeting Survey here.

Questions? Contact Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org for more information.

PARTNER CORNER

HISTORIC #DCSTATEHOOD HEARING—THE PEOPLE SHOWED UP FOR H.R. 51

In a historic hearing on Thursday, September 19, the issue of DC Statehood was brought to the halls of Congress and the forefront of the American public. Advocates testified for DC’s admission as the 51st state, which would grant representation to over 700,000 taxpaying residents, the ability to govern themselves, and finally ensure DC residents a full, equal voice in our democracy. Residents and supporters, wearing red and white for DC statehood, filled the room, several overflow rooms, and watch parties were held across the District. You can read more about the hearing here.

We want to recognize the hard work of our partner DC Vote in mobilizing an incredible turnout for this critical hearing, and acknowledge our partners Jobs with Justice, League of Women Voters, National Action Network, Sierra Club for making sure to #ShowUp4DC today!


COLLECTIVE ACTION FOR OUR FUTURE: THE STRIKE FOR THE CLIMATE

Last Friday, September 20, people across the world are striking for the climate. A movement started by now-16-year-old Greta Thunberg and students in Sweden skipping school to protest the lack of climate action. The movement has since grown worldwide, and now, the students have encouraged anyone and everyone to join their demands for a Green New Deal, respect for indigenous land and sovereignty, environmental justice, protection for biodiversity, and sustainable agriculture. DI partners 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and others have voiced their support for the mobilization.

It’s important to recognize the power of collective, direct action in a time when our government’s inaction and gridlock has stifled meaningful change—action demanded by the people most impacted. When Congress fails to act, the people must make their voices heard, and the solidarity, popular power, and momentum generated by collective action can and often does translate into real change.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica and DI Training & Movement Building Coordinator Brittny Baxter.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

MARYLAND—NEW REPORT SHOWS POWER OF SMALL DONOR PUBLIC FINANCING IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY

According to a report conducted by DI partners Maryland PIRG, the small donor public financing program instituted in Montgomery County successfully managed to encourage a greater diversity of local candidates to run without catering to wealthy and corporate donors. Similar versions of the program, which provides qualifying candidates with matching public funds if they collect a certain number of donations under $150, have passed in every county in the state. In last years elections, 57 candidates for county executive and council enrolled into the program and 24 raised enough small donor funds to qualify for public matching. Two-thirds of the winning council candidates participated in the program.

Emily Scarr, director of Maryland PIRG, said in a quote that “Candidates who qualified for our program received nearly twice as many contributions as those who didn’t choose to participate, which I think really shows that there’s an appetite for public financing.

Read more here.

 

NORTH CAROLINALEGISLATORS TRY TO SUBMIT NEW GERRYMANDERED MAPS

North Carolina’s Republican majority legislature passed new state House and Senate district maps on Tuesday after a court-ordered redraw. The decision, handed down earlier this month, found that the maps drawn in 2017 were gerrymandered along partisan lines in violation of the state constitution. According to Stephen Wolf of DailyKos, the new maps still demonstrate evidence of partisan gerrymandering. While the court reserved for itself the right to appoint a nonpartisan arbitrator to redraw the maps should the legislature fail to comply with the court order, some of the GOP legislators are claiming legitimacy by pointing to the support of some Senate Democrats for the new maps.

Read the analysis here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 09.13.19

Friday, September 13, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

The Grassroots Demands Democracy—Will Congress Listen?

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields' latest op-ed was published in The Hill on Monday, September 9, focusing on the growing grassroots demand for comprehensive democracy reform. She calls on politicians to listen to the voices of the unheard and act decisively ensure that all Americans have a seat at the table when government decisions are made.

“The organization I lead, the Democracy Initiative, works with grassroots advocates in states across the U.S. to pass democracy reforms. I know firsthand that, contrary to what the news reports, groups who don’t always agree with each other can work together (like environmentalists, the Chamber of Commerce and labor) when their common goal is a fair, functioning political system. Our coalitions cross racial, cultural and class lines. And regardless of who was at the top of the ticket in 2018 state races, voter reforms won majorities from both sides of the aisle—proving that when democracy is on the ballot, it wins.”

You can read the full piece here. Please share it on your social media channels with the hashtags #CongressMustListen and #WeDemandDemocracy.

BALTIMORE DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING & FAIR ELECTIONS HEARING

We are excited to announce that the Democracy Initiative will be partnering with Baltimore Fair Elections to hold a Democracy Champions Popular Education Training in Baltimore on September 28, 2019! Please spread the word and encourage your Baltimore staff and members to attend!

When: Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 9:30am – 2:00pm
Where: Function Coworking Community, 4709 Harford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

In Baltimore, the City Council has set a September 17 hearing date to discuss implementation for the fair elections bill sponsored by Councilmember Burnett. It is important that the public remains involved during this phase to ensure the program is equitably funded. As a follow up, for coalition members and the general public, the DI is partnering with the Baltimore Fair Elections Coalition to provide a Democracy Champions training.

The training is open to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of advancing reforms like this bill, as well as how to talk about democracy and power in Baltimore and across Maryland. The training will be held on September 28th from 10:00am to 2:00pm at Function Co-working Space. Any questions should be directed to our Training and Movement Building Coordinator, Brittny Baxter at bbaxter@democracyinitiative.org.

DI BOARD MEMBERS ON THE MOVE

NAACP PRESIDENT & CEO DERRICK JOHNSON TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

On Tuesday, September 10, DI Board Member and NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson, alongside several coalition allies including the ACLU and Leadership Conference, testified on the urgent need for revitalization of voting rights in the country and stamp out voter suppression.

In his statement, Johnson advocated for Congress to pass into law the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will put an end to discriminatory voter suppression efforts around the country; the For The People Act (H.R. 1/S. 949), the landmark democracy reform package and new standard for nationwide reform; and the Securing America's Federal Elections Act, which will protect our elections from foreign interference.

"Trump’s Justice Department is missing in action on any voting rights enforcement and the NAACP is fighting back wherever and whenever we can. But this is not sustainable. Congress must step up to combat this national epidemic afflicting our democracy." —Derrick Johnson

You can watch the full testimony here.

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

PARTNER CORNER

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS LAUNCHES NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGN FOR REDISTRICTING REFORM

Last week, DI partner League of Women Voters launched their People Powered Fair Maps campaign, a half-million-dollar effort in all 50 states and DC. The campaign will focus on advocacy, education, organizing and mobilization, partnerships, litigation, and protection around redistricting processes, according to a statement released Thursday, September 5.

The League of Women Voters is one of the leading organizations on redistricting in the country, and with over 750 chapters across the country, they intend to build on previous successes such as their redistricting victories in Pennsylvania and the recent Common Cause redistricting victory in North Carolina, both of which show the path forward to challenging partisan gerrymandering at the state level.

Learn more about the campaign here.

COLLECTIVE ACTION FOR OUR FUTURE: JOIN THE CLIMATE STRIKE

On September 20, people across the world are striking for the climate. A movement started by now-16-year-old Greta Thunberg and students in Sweden skipping school to protest the lack of climate action. The movement has since grown worldwide, and now, the students have encouraged anyone and everyone to join their demands for a Green New Deal, respect for indigenous land and sovereignty, environmental justice, protection for biodiversity, and sustainable agriculture. DI partners 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and others have already voiced their support for the mobilization.

It’s important to recognize the power of collective, direct action in a time when our government’s inaction and gridlock has stifled meaningful action—action demanded by the people most impacted. When Congress fails to act, the people must make their voices heard, and the solidarity, popular power, and momentum generated by collective action can and often does translate into real change.

To find and RSVP to strikes happening near you, visit https://globalclimatestrike.net/. You can download the Climate Strike Toolkit for Workers from the Labor Network for Sustainability here.

TAKE ACTION: #SHOWUP4DC H.R. 51—STATEHOOD HEARING

Join us and #ShowUp4DC by attending the September 19 hearing on DC Statehood!

At the core of our democracy is the simple principle: one person, one vote. Over 700,000 DC residents, in our nation’s Capital, are denied their voice by lacking representation in Congress. On September 19, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear testimony on H.R. 51, the Washington DC Admission Act.

We’re asking our partner organizations to #ShowUp4DC, by standing in solidarity with DC residents as they fight for full representation and equality and taking action with our partners at DC Vote.

  • Commit volunteers to join DC Vote’s “Welcoming and Way Finding” team at Capitol South on the day of the hearing! Email bhelmick@dcvote.org to coordinate.
  • Show up to the September 19 hearing: the hearing on DC Statehood is at Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154, at 10:00am. You can text HEARING to 52886 to receive updates to your phone. Encourage your DC members to attend as well!

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS UNDER ATTACK AS FEC SHRINKS

Less than two weeks after Republican appointee to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Matthew Petersen resigned, leaving the agency without quorum to take effective action, the Trump Administration has pushed rule proposals through the Treasury Department to reduce disclosure requirements. Under the proposed rules, given last Friday, September 6, certain tax-exempt groups (certain nonprofits, business leagues, labor unions) would no longer be required to present donor names or addresses on their tax forms.

The IRS and Treasury skirted accountability by claiming that their agencies are not tasked with enforcing campaign finance laws, conveniently glossing over the fact that the agency responsible has just been defanged and will be kept that way by Mitch McConnell.

Read more here.

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 09.06.19

Friday, September 6, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE UPDATES

The DI is excited to welcome a new Deputy Director, Jennifer Lamson. Jennifer has more than 25 years of experience leading, managing and advising progressive issue campaigns at the local, national and international levels. She specializes in designing and implementing strategies that build political will through coalition-building, strategic communications, and grassroots organizing.

At the Pew Charitable Trusts, Jennifer oversaw the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), a long-running coalition and their largest land conservation effort. As a consultant, Jennifer advised a wide range of partners including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Schmidt Family Foundation, Toxic-Free Future, and Resource Media. Earlier in her career, Jennifer learned the fundamentals of collective action at one of DI’s partners, Common Cause, where she led national field activities in support of pro-democracy legislation.

Jennifer launched her public interest career as an aide to then-Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from College of the Holy Cross.

TOXIC TRIANGLE PANEL HELD, SUCCESSFUL DISCUSSION

This Wednesday, the Democracy Initiative hosted the Toxic Triangle panel, a discussion covering the intersection of democracy, race, wealth extraction, the climate, and Wall Street sponsored by DI partners and allies Action Center on Race and the Economy, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Hip-Hop Caucus, NAACP, and Take On Wall Street.

The two hour discussion, which delved into the varied ways corporations and fossil fuel companies pollute our environment and our communities featured an amazing group of panelists: Jacqui Patterson, Environmental and Climate Justice Program Director at the NAACP; Brittany Alston, Senior Research Analyst with Action Center on Race and the Economy; Porter McConnell, Campaign Director of Take On Wall Street; Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth; Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr, President & CEO of Hip Hop Caucus; and closing remarks from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative.

The panelists, in addition to exploring the tragic and exploitative ways that the finance and fossil fuel industries harm communities of color, also reminded us of the need to hold ourselves and our organizations accountable for the ways we might fail to adequately combat this exploitation.

The audience was deeply engaged in the conversation and offered perspectives and insightful questions stemming from their own work and experiences during the Q&A.

If you missed the Toxic Triangle panel or couldn’t tune in to the live stream, you can still view the panel discussion online here.

SENATE WATCH

On Monday, August 26, Republican appointee to the Federal Election Committee (FEC) Matthew Petersen quietly resigned and rendered the oversight body effectively useless. Petersen, a former nominee for federal judge by Trump disqualified after failing to answer the most remedial legal questions, leaves behind an FEC with only three members, one less than required for its quorum of four. “Without a quorum,” wrote Republican commissioner Caroline Hunter, the FEC cannot “hold meetings, initiate audits, vote on enforcement matters, issue advisory opinions, or engage in rulemakings.” Unless new appointments are made, the FEC will be powerless heading into 2020.

The 2020 elections are fast approaching, and the country has yet to address the glaring vulnerability of our election infrastructure, made painfully apparent by the fact that all 50 states were targeted by Russian hacking attempts in 2016 and likely will be vulnerable again in 2020. A functioning, watchful FEC must be an essential component of any attempt to ensure that all Americans can make their voices heard on election day. It’s little wonder that Mitch McConnell stands in the way of that.

Ordinarily, two new FEC commissioners are nominated every two years—one by either party. Ever since McConnell became Senate majority leader in 2015, he has not confirmed a single commissioner. This comes as no surprise, considering the Senate under his command has become a graveyard for election security bills, including three proposed after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress. On top of that, McConnell has long opposed anything remotely resembling the campaign finance regulation the FEC was designed to enforce.

The fact that our elections, enforcement of campaign finance regulations, and ability to pass reforms on all the issues we care about can be compromised by the same institution makes it clear that its current dysfunction cannot be allowed to continue. When a new congress enters in 2021, the officials voted in by the American people must be prepared to govern.

RSVP: BALTIMORE DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING!

We are excited to announce that the Democracy Initiative will be partnering with Baltimore Fair Elections to hold a Democracy Champions Popular Education Training in Baltimore on September 28, 2019! Please spread the word and encourage your Baltimore staff and members to attend!

When: Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 9:30am – 2:00pm
Where: Function Coworking Community, 4709 Harford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

Last November, Baltimoreans overwhelmingly voted yes on Question H for a Fair Election Fund and to get outside, wealthy interests out of local politics. Now, Baltimore voters need everyone to come out to support making the Fair Election Fund a reality! The Judiciary Committee will be holding a public hearing Tuesday, September 17 at 10:00am on CB19-0403, a bill which finalizes the details of the fund. For more information and to RSVP, go here.

The Democracy Champions training is designed to create a cadre of pro-democracy leaders that understand that democracy is the key to winning on the issues that matter: living wage, healthcare, climate justice, to name a few. This popular education training is driven by the experiences of the participants and channels their energy into tangible actions that will build a strong foundation for the democracy movement.

Participants walk away with a 360 view of the way wealthy individuals and corporations use their money to dominate our political landscape. The solution is simple... It is in the leaders created by this training that will take the knowledge to advance democracy reform work in their backyards.

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

#SHOWUP4DC—H.R. 51 dc STATEHOOD HEARING

Join us and #ShowUp4DC by attending the September 19 hearing on D.C. Statehood!

At the core of our democracy is the simple principle: one person, one vote. Over 700,000 D.C. residents, in our nation’s Capital, are denied their voice by lacking representation in Congress. On September 19, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear testimony on H.R. 51, the Washington DC Admission Act.

We’re asking our partner organizations to #ShowUp4DC, by standing in solidarity with D.C. residents as they fight for full representation and equality and taking action with our partners at DCVote.

  • Show up to the September 19 hearing: the hearing on DC Statehood is at Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154, at 10:00am. You can text HEARING to 52886 to receive updates to your phone. Encourage your DC members to attend as well!

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

NORTH CAROLINA—PARTISAN GERRYMANDER STRUCK DOWN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Three judges from the Wake County Superior Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday, September 3, that the state's General Assembly violated the state constitution when it gerrymandered the legislative districts in 2017. The North Carolina General Assembly now has two weeks to draw new districts for the state legislature and senate, with robust restrictions, oversight, and transparency. This incredible victory is the first of many in the fight for fair representation at the state level, and now stands as the most comprehensive ruling on partisan gerrymandering ever written.

Wake County Superior Court's ruling in favor of DI partner Common Cause's case in Common Cause v. Lewis arrives as a powerful testament to the viability of a state-level challenge to gerrymandering, especially after the disappointing Supreme Court decision in Common Cause v. Rucho, in which SCOTUS ruled that it cannot conclusively claim the unconstitutionality of partisan gerrymanders. Yet the three judges were crystal clear in their 300 page analysis: that the 2017 General Assembly, under the direction of the late gerrymandering architect Thomas Hofeller (whose files, given to Common Cause, were instrumental), deliberately infringed upon North Carolina voters' rights in crafting a partisan map so skewed in its favor toward Republicans that thousands of algorithmically generated versions couldn't top it. With the newly ordered redrawing, voters will have fair representation in time for the 2020 elections.

In light of the recent victory, DI Board Co-Chair and Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn gave the following statement:

“A narrow majority on the United States Supreme Court turned their backs on the voters in North Carolina in June refusing to curb the blatant partisan gerrymander, but today the state’s own court stood up for the rights of those voters under the state constitution. This victory joins a growing list of victories in the fight to end gerrymandering nationwide. The battles do not end here though. We will watchdog this process to ensure that the legislature draws fair maps and the process is transparent. In other states the fight will go on in state courts, in legislatures, and through ballot initiatives to ensure every voter across this country has a voice at the polls. Common Cause will be relentless in continuing our fight to end partisan gerrymandering once and for all.” —Karen Hobert Flynn

Read more here.

OHIO—CASE RESULTS IN PROTECTIONS FOR VOTERS AGAINST PURGING

Last Thursday, August 29, DI partners and allies ACLU of Ohio, A. Philip Randolph Institute of Ohio and Demos reached a settlement on the long-running litigation in Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute v. LaRose concerning the state’s voter purging practices. The settlement will ensure that eligible voters removed through 2019 will be able to cast a provisional ballot in any election until 2022 and have it counted, thus also ensuring their future eligibility by keeping them on the voter rolls. The settlement is responsible for introducing numerous reforms designed to facilitate voting in the state, including timely warnings and relying on other state agencies to minimize risk of incorrectly and unfairly purging Ohio voters.

Stuart Naifeh, Senior Counsel at Demos, said of the decision: “Today’s settlement is a win for Ohio voters and for our democracy. […] Today’s settlement guarantees that qualified voters who were removed without proper notice are still able to cast a ballot and have it counted. It makes sure that the voices of such voters are not excluded from the democratic process.”

Read more here.

INDIANA—COURT RULING HALTS UNLAWFUL PURGES USING CROSSCHECK

Another court case last week resulted in a victory for voters and democracy: a U.S. Appeals Court ruled last Tuesday, August 27 that Indiana cannot cancel a voter’s registration without prior confirmation from the affected voter. The ruling matches an earlier ruling from a lower court, effectively dismissing that election officials’ use of the Interstate Crosscheck and discovery of duplicate registrations for a voter amounted to the voter’s permission for removal. The decision protects the states’ voters from unlawful purging efforts, a concern especially pertinent considering the officials were attempting to use a voter suppression database that is wrong 99 percent of the time according to the Washington Post.

Read more here.

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 08.29.19

Thursday, August 29, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

join us for the TOXIC TRIANGLE panel on sept. 4!

When: Wednesday, September 4th from 3:00 – 4:30 pm with a reception to follow
Where: Office of Common Cause at 805 15th St NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20005

Join us for a wide-ranging and critical panel discussion led by leaders of our broad coalition, as they bring their expertise to bear on the intersection of finance, climate change, race, class, and the little known ways that Wall Street and the fossil fuels industry exploit communities of color.

There will also be a Q&A session and attendees are invited to join us for a cocktail reception on rooftop!

RSVP HERE

Click here to download a flyer.

BALTIMORE democracy champions TRAINING & FAIR ELECTIONS FUND HEARING

We are excited to announce that the Democracy Initiative will be partnering with Baltimore Fair Elections to hold a Democracy Champions Popular Education Training in Baltimore on September 28, 2019! Please spread the word and encourage your Baltimore staff and members to attend!

When: Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 9:30am – 2:00pm
Where: Function Coworking Community, 4709 Harford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

Last November, Baltimoreans overwhelmingly voted yes on Question H for a Fair Election Fund and to get outside, wealthy interests out of local politics. Now, Baltimore voters need everyone to come out to support making the Fair Election Fund a reality! The Judiciary Committee will be holding a public hearing Tuesday, September 17 at 10:00am on CB19-0403, a bill which finalizes the details of the fund. For more information and to RSVP, go here.

The Democracy Champions training is designed to create a cadre of pro-democracy leaders that understand that democracy is the key to winning on the issues that matter: living wage, healthcare, climate justice, to name a few. This popular education training is driven by the experiences of the participants and channels their energy into tangible actions that will build a strong foundation for the democracy movement.

Participants walk away with a 360 view of the way wealthy individuals and corporations use their money to dominate our political landscape. The solution is simple... It is in the leaders created by this training that will take the knowledge to advance democracy reform work in their backyards.

RSVP to the Democracy Champions Training!

di COMMUNICATIONS WORKING GROUP call: sEPT. 5

Join us on Thursday, September 5 at 4:00pm for the first of our DI Communications Working Group conference calls. Future calls will take place on the first Thursday of the month. We will be discussing messaging, polling, and actions around Democracy issues.

The Communications Working Group is our collaborative space for message refinement, discussion and development for our current field work. These monthly meetings also help to resource partner organizations for ongoing local and national campaigns and coordinate messaging and communications as a coalition.

To RSVP or to submit items for discussion, please contact Christopher Honey at choney@democracyinitiative.org.

#SHOWUP4DC—H.R. 51 dc STATEHOOD HEARING

Join us and #ShowUp4DC by attending the September 19 hearing on D.C. Statehood!

At the core of our democracy is the simple principle: one person, one vote. Over 700,000 D.C. residents, in our nation’s Capital, are denied their voice by lacking representation in Congress. On September 19, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear testimony on H.R. 51, the Washington DC Admission Act.

We’re asking our partner organizations to #ShowUp4DC, by standing in solidarity with D.C. residents as they fight for full representation and equality and taking action with our partners at DCVote.

  • Participate in the September 5 National Statehood Table: DCVote is convening a critical table for engagement with the work, amplifying the coalition's efforts, and collectively participate in this historic campaign. Your organization can RSVP here.
  • Show up to the September 19 hearing: the hearing on DC Statehood is at Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154, at 10:00am. You can text HEARING to 52886 to receive updates to your phone. Encourage your DC members to attend as well!

PARTNER CORNER

RETHINK MEDIA AND NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR MONEY IN POLITICS WEBINAR

DI partner ReThink Media is teaming up with the National Institute on Money in Politics to host a September 5 webinar on FollowTheMoney.org, an incredible, go-to resource for campaign finance reform advocates, researchers, and journalists to explore state and local campaign donations and donors from all 50 states and the flow of money in state politics.

This is an opportunity to learn more about the website and how to use it, resources available, as well as ask questions specific to your work.

Register here.

COMMON CAUSE TEXAS LAUNCHES NEW CAMPAIGN TO EXPAND THE VOTE

DI partner Common Cause’s Texas state chapter recently announced a brand new campaign, Let Texas Vote, to combat voter suppression and ensure free, fair, and accessible elections for all Texans. The campaign has unveiled a sweeping host of democracy reform demands designed to increase turnout, secure elections, protect the vote, and expand access—in short, to bring Texas’ elections into the 21st Century.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEW: STATE UPDATES

COLORADO—COURT UNTETHERS ELECTORS FROM STATE’S POPULAR VOTE

On Tuesday, August 20, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver Colorado ruled that electoral college electors are not required to cast their vote in accordance with the results of their state’s popular vote. In 2016, a Colorado Democratic so-called “faithless elector” Micheal Baca voted for John Kasich in contradiction with the popular vote, which overwhelmingly went for Hillary Clinton. The Secretary of State disregarded his vote and replaced him with another elector who voted for Clinton, in accordance with typical procedure.

Last Tuesday’s 2-1 decision, however, argues that this is unconstitutional, unduly increasing the power of electoral college over voters and opening the path for electors to sway close elections according to their own preferences. The 10th Circuit Court’s decision has immediate application to Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, though time is left for a Supreme Court challenge should voting rights advocates appeal the decision in time for the 2020 elections.

Read more here.

ARIZONA—VOTER SUPPRESSION EXPECTED IN 2020

The fight in 2020 to ensure every eligible voter can exercise their right to vote will be fierce in Arizona, where anti-democracy lawmakers passed legislation designed to suppress the vote in the most recent legislative session. The first bill places voter ID requirements on some early voters, thus suppressing marginalized communities most likely to lack an up-to-date photo ID. A second bill affects voters unable to vote on Election Day due to unforeseen circumstances, requiring a sworn affidavit and identification.

In a state where turnout, especially turnout from communities of color, young voters, and women, is on the rise, voter suppression is increasingly the last gasp of an establishment dedicated to maintaining the status quo at the expense of voters. Sustained, community-oriented voter engagement and meeting people where they are will be required to ensure all Arizonans can use their voices in the democratic process.

Read more here.

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

PIPER FUND—PROGRAM OFFICER, RIGHT TO PROTEST

The Proteus Fund partners with foundations, advocates and individual donors to advance democracy, human rights and peace. Their current major initiatives work to address money in politics, protect judicial independence and freedom of assembly, and more.

The Program Officer for the Right to Protest facilitates Piper Fund’s and Piper Action Fund’s work to protect freedom of assembly. The Program Officer conducts rapid response grant making to state and local organizations, coordinates a network of national organizations, and engages with philanthropic partners to raise funds to support this program. This is a full time remote position.

See the full posting here.

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 08.22.19

Thursday, August 22, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

JOIN US FOR THE TOXIC TRIANGLE PANEL & RECEPTION!

When: Wednesday, September 4th from 3:00 – 4:30 pm with a reception to follow
Where: Office of Common Cause at 805 15th St NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005

Join us for a wide-ranging panel discussion covering the intersection of finance, climate change, race, and class and the little known ways that Wall Street and the fossil fuels industry exploit communities of color. We'll dive into critical subjects such as:

  • How much of the racism in the financial and fossil fuel industry is intentional and how much is just a byproduct of our nation’s original sin?
  • Follow the money! How lobbying, campaign contributions, astroturf, and dark money protect elites from accountability.
  • From redlining in real estate to mass incarceration, how does the intersection of wealth extraction and race and class affect people’s everyday lives?

Participants will include:

There will also be a Q&A session and attendees are invited to join us afterward for a cocktail reception on rooftop!

RSVP HERE

Click here to download a flyer

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

WE STILL HAVEN'T SEEN DEMOCRACY ON THE DEBATE STAGE

Despite one of the largest Supreme Court decisions on voting rights being issued this summer, reports of 17 million voter registrations cancelled since 2016, and a Senate Intelligence report revealing that Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states, Democratic candidates running for President have yet to field a single question about democracy reform.

The moment we’re in makes it clear that candidates must have a plan to address our pay-to-win government run for the benefit of corporations at the expense of the people. Not only that, but candidates must be pressed for their plans on how to pass their legislation through a gridlocked Senate that routinely halts voting rights and fair representation legislation from passing.

Read more here.

OIL & ENERGY LOBBYISTS ATTEMPT TO CRIMINALIZE PROTEST

In a recent audio recording submitted to The Intercept, major lobbying group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers admitted to leading the effort to craft laws that criminalize protest and opposition to “critical infrastructure,” a designation that euphemistically covers pipelines, drills, and other fossil fuel projects on public land.

The group, which includes Chevron, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Valero Energy, and others, have been mobilizing their lobbyists to introduce legislation that slams protesters and protest organizers with fines and prison time and makes protesters liable for any damages. Model legislation crafted by the AFPM was distributed to state legislators, introduced in some form in 22 states, and passed in nine.

These attempts continue a long history of corporations and sympathetic politicians attempting to curb the free speech of Americans in order to further line their pockets.

Read more here.

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

PIPER FUND—PROGRAM OFFICER, RIGHT TO PROTEST

The Proteus Fund partners with foundations, advocates and individual donors to advance democracy, human rights and peace. Their current major initiatives work to address money in politics, protect judicial independence and freedom of assembly, and more.

The Program Officer for the Right to Protest facilitates Piper Fund’s and Piper Action Fund’s work to protect freedom of assembly. The Program Officer conducts rapid response grant making to state and local organizations, coordinates a network of national organizations, and engages with philanthropic partners to raise funds to support this program. This is a full time remote position.

See the full posting here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE—GRASSROOTS ORGANIZING INTERN

The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 72 organizations, representing 45 million members, is seeking a talented Grassroots Mobilizing Intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the campaign team, the Grassroots Mobilizing Intern will assist with message development, organizing campaigns, training, and mobilizing democracy issues to our partners. This is a paid internship.

See the full posting here.

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 08.15.19

Thursday, August 15, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

SENATE WATCH: THE FILIBUSTER

Recently, the Senate’s reputation as a broken, dysfunctional body was brought to the forefront of Americans' attention as the country failed to pass meaningful, urgent gun reform legislation after a week of three mass shootings, some of the deadliest in the nation’s history. For McConnell, who has consistently use anti-democratic rules to halt any attempt at gun control legislation, even he was willing to publicly acknowledge calls for background checks and the nebulously defined “red flag” laws, but remained true to form when he refused to call the Senate into emergency session to do it. When the country was hurting, many Senators were on vacation.

As DI Executive Director Wendy Fields said:

“It’s audacious to go on vacation while an epidemic of mass shootings is making people afraid to go out in public or travel in crowded spaces.”

It’s clear that, with an administration whose rhetoric regularly makes its way into the manifestos of the shooters and is unwilling to take responsibility and interrupt the mounting terror being inflicted on Americans (most harshly on Black and Brown communities), there’s no one to step in. That’s why the Senate’s refusal to govern is so outrageous and dangerous.

Just this past week, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called on Democratic presidential candidates to consider abolishing the filibuster to ensure our governing body actually governs. While Reid’s sights were set firmly on a timely response to the climate crisis, we recognize that Americans need timely responses to many pressing issues. Recent polling has shown that a growing number of candidates are considering filibuster reform; Paul Waldman called it “the most important question Democratic Presidential candidates must answer.” According to August polling done by Civiqs, a growing number of Americans, 45%, agree that legislation should be passed with a 51 or more vote majority.

With increasing gun violence, voting purges, trillion dollar tax cuts, stagnant wages, and vulnerable elections, however, Americans need reform now. All options are on the table until then.

JOIN US! pANEL ON THE TOXIC TRIANGLE!

When: Wednesday, September 4th from 3:00 – 4:30 pm, with a reception to follow
Where: Office of Common Cause at 805 15th St NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20005

Join us for a wide-ranging panel discussion covering the intersection of finance, climate change, race, and class and the little known ways that Wall Street and the fossil fuels industry exploit communities of color, including

  • How much of the racism in the financial and fossil fuel industry is intentional and how much is just a byproduct of our nation’s original sin?
  • Follow the money! How lobbying, campaign contributions, astroturf, and dark money protect elites from accountability.
  • From “police brutality bonds” to redlining in real estate, how does the intersection of wealth extraction and race and class affect people’s everyday lives?

There will be a Q&A Session and a reception following the panel! Join us for cocktails on the roof!

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

MISSISSIPPI—RETALIATORY ICE RAID CAPTURES 680 WORKERS FOR EXERCISING THEIR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

On Wednesday, August 8, Immigration & Customs Enforcement officers raided the Koch Foods processing plant in Morton, Mississippi and arrested nearly 700 workers. ICE agents brought out a helicopter and rows of buses in order to tear mothers and fathers from their children; many traumatized children without homes to turn to were reported refusing to eat. According to the Washington Post's Abigail Hauslohner, it was the largest single-state workplace raid in the country's history. It was not a coincidence that it occurred on the town's first day of school.

What received less attention, however, was the fact that the raid (and several others at smaller Koch Food poultry plants) happened a year after the company settled a $3.75 million lawsuit for racial discrimination and sexual harassment at the very same plant. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who defended the workers in the suit, supervisors "touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees, and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities." Workers were apparently discharged or otherwise retaliated against if they complained. This is not an anomaly; according to labor reporter Mike Elk, this is at least the third instance of ICE raids occurring after workplace complaints/unrest.

The raid clearly illustrates the tactics large corporations wield in order to dominate their workers at the tail end of a long period of atrophied workplace protections and unaccountable industry profiteering. In fact, Koch Foods and other poultry companies often specifically hire vulnerable undocumented workers because they can deliberately use their immigration status as a bludgeon should the exploited workers complain about their treatment.

If you combine a CEO (Joseph Grendys) with a net worth of nearly $3 billion, a workforce of the most vulnerable immigrant workers without protection, and a lawsuit which exposes the cruelty inherent in the maintenance of such an exploitative system, the events leading to the weaponization of ICE become crystal clear. Until we have robust and fair protections for all workers and wealthy corporate interests are fully accountable for their actions, we can expect that this raid won't be the last.

FLORIDA—FEATURED: DESMONDE MEADE ON RESTORING VRA

Desmonde Meade, a 2017 Democracy Champions Award Recipient and Executive Director of the Second Chances Florida campaign, which led the fight to pass Amendment 4 and restore the ability to vote to 1.4 million Floridians, penned a new op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times on the need to restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Meade makes the connection between regaining the ability to vote and the need to protect the vote of others crystal clear, and highlights the crucial need to restore the landmark Voting Rights Act in a country where “millions of Americans across the country are still being denied their constitutional right to vote, as tactics such as voter roll purges, mismatched signature laws and excessive identification requirements become more common.”

Meade outlines the path to building demand on the ground, by “[joining] together at the grassroots level, not based on partisanship, but in a common love for the values this country holds,” and pushing for Congress to take action by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Ultimately, the voices of the people will be drowned out by special interest money and legislative gridlock until we institute “a system of governance that our children and grandchildren can prosper under.”

Read the full op-ed here.

MICHIGAN—VOTERS NOT POLITICIANS SUE TO PROTECT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION

A few weeks after a nonprofit tied to the Republican party sued Michigan’s Secretary of State to prohibit the creation of the new independent redistricting commission overwhelmingly approved by Michigan voters, Voters Not Politicians has filed suit to stop the overruling of the people’s will.

Executive Director of Voters Not Politicians Nancy Wang gave the following statement in response to the opposition’s last-ditch efforts to stop the voter-approved initiative from going into effect:

“Voters made it loud and clear that they support a fair, impartial and transparent redistricting process to ensure that voters choose their politicians — not the other way around. We’re confident that the amendment will survive this and any other legal challenges, just as it overcame previous challenges by many of the same special interests who are behind this suit, on the way to the ballot.”

Read more here.

GEORGIA—BRIAN KEMP'S RECORD SHOWS US WHAT 2020 WILL LOOK LIKE

New stories of Brian Kemp’s record of voter suppression have continued to surface after his 2018 gubernatorial victory, a win aided heavily by his own deployment of suppression tactics as then-Secretary of State.

Most recently, the story of the Quitman 10+2 has resurfaced, which details the arrest and charging of county school board member Nancy Dennard and 11 others with 120 separate felonies to intimidate them. As black candidates who won against white incumbents institutionally backed by a traditionally white power structure, Kemp singled out these candidates in a racist demonstration of power before releasing them without conviction or jailing. There’s no reason to suspect 2020 will be any different without significant reform efforts.

Read more here.

TAKE ACTION—WE MUST DEMAND SECURE ELECTIONS

Join DI partners and allies Mueller Book Club, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Stand Up America, and others to take action to shame Mitch McConnell and other Senators for shutting down much needed election security funding and keeping our democracy as vulnerable as possible to attack.  The coalition is specifically focusing on targeting vulnerable GOP Senators and non-ally Senators in the relevant Senate Appropriations Committee.

JOIN THE EFFORT NOW

Here are a few opportunities to engage:

  • Continuous Action: Call and demand our elected officials take election security as the urgent necessity it is! Call-in number: 1-833-413-5906
  • Tuesday, August 20: Movement Grassroots call at 8:30 p.m. with the Mueller Book Club. RSVP HERE.
  • Tuesday, September 17: Election Security Day of Action. Press events outside of Senate offices with a focus on target Senate Districts.

DI BOARD MEMBERS ON THE MOVE

Last week, DI Board Co-Chair and AFL-CIO Executive President Tefere Gebre spoke with Rep. Ilhan Omar and others on a civic engagement panel at the Empower the Community Weekend: Habesha Conference. The conference, hosted in Washington DC, was a groundbreaking event that brought together the largest East African community in the DC metro area.

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE—GRASSROOTS ORGANIZING INTERN

The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 72 organizations, representing 45 million members, is seeking a talented Grassroots Mobilizing Intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the campaign team, the Grassroots Mobilizing Intern will assist with message development, organizing campaigns, training, and mobilizing democracy issues to our partners. This is a paid internship.

See the full posting here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE—COMMUNICATIONS INTERN

The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 72 organizations, representing 45 million members, is seeking a talented Communications Intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the Communications Strategist, the Communications Intern will assist with message development and implementation, social media engagement, and online mobilizations for our diverse issue partners. This is a paid internship.

See the full posting here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 08.07.19

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

SENATE WATCH: SENATE MUST ACT TO PROTECT US

In the last week, there have been three mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings have been plaguing the country for some time now, but never before have their accelerated at such an alarming rate in so short a period. We mourn the family members, friends, and neighbors lost in these contemptible acts of white supremacist and misogynic violence, and we mourn the fact that the country has failed, time and again, to keep its citizens safe. A truly strong, 21st century democracy prioritizes the safety and security of all its people.

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields, in response to the recent mass shootings, offered the following statement:

"There is no debate about whether now is the time to take historic steps toward bold gun reform, pursuing the best policies and implementing them with a strong sense of urgency. We demand those elected to govern to do their damn job and ensure every American is safe, regardless of zip code."

That’s why we’re calling for pressure on Mitch McConnell and the Senate, who have managed to kill gun control bill after gun control bill. The Senate’s weaponized dysfunction has prevented action on many issues Americans care about, and gun violence is no exception. Millions of Americans are calling for action, yet McConnell’s response has overwhelmingly been one of inaction and complicity.

We urge all Americans to call on their own Senators and demand action. We call for the Senate to cut through gridlock and obstruction, to govern as Americans need them to, and to act immediately to ensure the safety of all Americans.

(Ann Telnaes/Washington Post)

SAVE THE DATE: TOXIC TRIANGLE

AUGUST 14 MOBILIZING MEETING AGENDA—NATIONAL POLLING ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Wednesday, August 14, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing Call on Wednesday, August 14 at 3pm EST.

Next Wednesday, we'll be joined by Rachel Sinderbrand, Director of Research at Civiqs, who do polling for DI partner DailyKos, on recent polling around democracy issues. Rachel will talk about recent national polling that they’ve done on campaign finance, impeachment, and more, with opportunities to join in discussions about messaging strategy and narrative development.

For more information and to RSVP, email Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

SAVE THE DATE: DI 2019 ANNUAL MEETING

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

TEXAS—INTERVIEW WITH TEXAS WOMAN JAILED FOR VOTING

Crystal Mason cast her vote in the 2016 presidential election. And then she was prosecuted and jailed for doing so. Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson decided to make an example of her when it was reveal that Mason was ineligible—though she didn’t know it at the time—to vote due to her incomplete probation period. Even though Mason’s provisional ballot was never officially counted, she was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for the crime of using her voice in our democracy.

Sam Levine from Huffington Post recently interviewed Mason, and discussed both her fight for justice and the ongoing war on voting launched by voter suppression architects. Read more here.

TENNESSEE—ELECTION SECURITY BLOCKED BY STATE OFFICIALS

On Saturday, August 3, a proposal designed to implement election infrastructure that produces a paper trail was halted by the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature’s legal team. In light of recent Homeland Security reports that all states were targeted by Russians in the 2016 Election to varying degrees, voting rights advocates have fought for increased election security measures, such as paper ballots, in order to safeguard the American people’s voice. Now, state opponents of election security have halted the measure by claiming that it imposes upon county election officials.

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE—GRASSROOTS ORGANIZING INTERN

The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 72 organizations, representing 45 million members, is seeking a talented Grassroots Mobilizing Intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the campaign team, the Grassroots Mobilizing Intern will assist with message development, organizing campaigns, training, and mobilizing democracy issues to our partners. This is a paid internship.

See the full posting here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE—COMMUNICATIONS INTERN

The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 72 organizations, representing 45 million members, is seeking a talented Communications Intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the Communications Strategist, the Communications Intern will assist with message development and implementation, social media engagement, and online mobilizations for our diverse issue partners. This is a paid internship.

See the full posting here.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS—NATIONAL ORGANIZING DIRECTOR

DI partner League of Women Voters is seeking a National Organizing Director, who will be responsible for developing and driving the League of Women Voters’ organizing strategy to build the long-term grassroots power at the state and national levels necessary to secure transformative wins that address the fundamental inequities built into our democracy. This is a senior level management position. This is a supervisory position that directs national LWVUS organizing staff, and in major priority campaigns, works closely with state and local volunteer field teams.

See the full posting here.

TAKE ON WALL STREET—EDUCATION & ADVOCACY COORDINATOR

DI partner Take On Wall Street is seeking a highly motivated self-starter with a passion for economic, racial, and gender justice, and have a demonstrated ability to work well with a diverse team of colleagues and allies for their Education & Advocacy Coordinator position.

The Take On Wall Street campaign came together to build a financial system for white, black, and brown working families, not big Wall Street banks. In the spring of 2016, over 50 groups decided to work together to envision a better financial system, train activists, cultivate champions, and fight for policy change to address the predatory economic power of big Wall Street banks and billionaires, and build a financial system for all of us.

Read the full posting here.

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