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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 07.18.19

Thursday, July 18, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

D.C. STATEHOOD HEARING UPDATES

The House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on HR 51—the Washington, DC Admission Act—has been postponed from July 24 to this fall, likely in mid-September. The new date will be announced soon. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton requested this change, given the two Mueller House committee hearings now scheduled for the 24.

DC Vote has pivoted and is using this extra time to organize a bigger turnout for the hearing, secure more statehood endorsements from more national organizations, and build their campaign to educate America.

Actions Needed:

  • Review the list of Democrats who have not yet cosponsored H.R. 51 and S.B. 631 here and take action where you may have an impact to push this last group to cosponsor.
  • Fire up your turn out plans once we have a new date for the hearing, and if you can, offer staff or leaders to help staff the day-of. Utilize the media toolkit and information at www.showup4dc.com.

Finally, for those of you in DC area, if you could use a drink (and we could) join DC Vote for the new IPA Statehood beer Thursday, July 18 from 6pm – 8pm at Red Bear Brewing Company 209 M St NE. Free tickets are available here.

DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING #INTERNEDITION TOMORROW!

Our 2nd Annual Democracy Champions #InternEdition Training is this Thursday, July 18! We’re so excited to welcome 50 interns from over 25 partner organizations to this amazing training! Our attendees will leave this training equipped with a partner resource toolkit that will support their future work in advancing democracy reform in their schools and states, and will feature Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland, as a Co-Facilitator and guest speaker!

Make sure your interns read the Case Study we sent out, and come on time with questions and notes ready!

COALITION PARTNER CORNER—TAKE ACTION

ACLU OF MICHIGAN TRAINING WEBINAR REMINDER

Last November, Michiganders passed Proposal 3, a package of voting reforms and measures that returned the state to its place as a leader in the fight for accessible, fair, and expansive democracy. But the fight doesn’t end when the votes are tallied—it’s time to implement.

Join the ACLU of Michigan, League of Women Voters of Michigan, Voters Not Politicians and other allies for an online training designed to create empowered voters!

The upcoming webinar dates:

  • July 24, Organizing your clerk engagement team: Identifying team members, delegating roles, and staying engaged.

Sign up here!

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CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER CALL-IN EVENT

Fines and fees are creating a system where voters are kept from the ballot simply on the basis of wealth. Our commitment to a strong democracy fully representative and accountable to the people demands that we eliminated all barriers to the vote.

Join Campaign Legal Center's call-in event on Thursday, July 25 to learn more about how the criminal justice system affects voting rights in the United States

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MUELLER TESTIMONY STREAM FACEBOOK CROSS-POSTING

DI partners Common Cause, MoveOn, PFAW, Public Citizen and other allies are prepared to push Mueller's testimony as far as possible next week via the Mueller Book Club. The Club will stream three events on Wednesday, July 24th, including the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee hearings, and a post-testimony analysis at 8:30 pm Eastern.

In order to get the largest possible reach and engagement, we are inviting all groups to be prepared to cross-post the video stream on Facebook. If your group is willing to cross-post Mueller's testimony and the post-testimony analysis, please reach out to Jonah Minkoff-Zern at jzern@citizen.org and include a contact for the manager of your Facebook page.

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NEW BRENNAN CENTER REPORT—H.R. 1 RESTORES SECURITY TO US DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS

On July 10, DI partner the Brennan Center for Justice released an analysis of the Mueller Report dealing with the ways in which U.S. law fails to adequately secure our elections. Their findings lay out how the country is especially vulnerable to foreign interference, which Russia and other foreign powers will almost certainly seek to exploit again in 2020. It also documented numerous potential violations of campaign finance and ethics rules and, in Volume II, a sustained effort by the president to interfere in the special counsel’s investigation.

See the analysis summary here, and the full report here.

SENATE WATCH

Gov. Inslee, candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, recently said of the filibuster in an interview with POLITICO:

"My opponents and the other aspirants in the race have really sincere, powerful things they want to get done. None of which would have a chance in hell of getting done if they continue to cling to this filibuster. There is no way that Mitch McConnell is going to let major climate change legislation to the Senate floor. Even if we have 59 votes. He's not going to let it happen."

That is to say, anyone who does not prepare a meaningful strategy to govern after winning the presidency is not a serious candidate.

JULY 31 MOBILIZING MEETING AGENDA: NATIONAL POLLING ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Wednesday, July 31, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing Call on Wednesday, July 31 at 3pm EST.

Civiqs, who do polling for DI partner DailyKos, will be joining us for the July 31 Mobilizing Meeting. Civiqs will talk about recent national polling that they’ve done on campaign finance and impeachment, 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.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

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.

 

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.

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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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 07.10.19

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

TAKE ACTION IN THE STATES: MICHIGAN & FLORIDA

MICHIGAN—WEBINARS TO STRENGTHEN LOCAL ELECTIONS

Last November, Michiganders passed Proposal 3, a package of voting reforms and measures that returned the state to its place as a leader in the fight for accessible, fair, and expansive democracy. But the fight doesn’t end when the votes are tallied. Implementation is just as important, if not more, than the original ballot measure. It’s time to implement.

Join the ACLU of Michigan, Campus Vote Project, League of Women Voters of Michigan and Voters Not Politicians for an online training series designed to create empowered voters! In three webinars, we will discuss your voting rights and offer training to meet with your local clerks, to increase access to the ballot in your hometown.

Voting Rights Online Training

Join the ACLU of Michigan on Wednesday, July 10, 17, & 24 from 7 - 8 p.m. to learn how you can protect your voting rights and meet with your local clerk.

RSVP

The webinar dates are as follows:

  • July 10, Insider update about implementing Proposal 3: What has and has not been implemented, and what the May 2019 election trends show for 2020.
  • July 17, Clerk engagement: What are the roles, the power, common concerns, and ways to work together with your local clerk to increase access to the ballot.
  • July 24, Organizing your clerk engagement team: Identifying team members, delegating roles, and staying engaged.

Together, we can ensure Michigan's voting system works, just like you voted it to be.

Note: Each webinar has an individual RSVP.

FLORIDA—RETURNING CITIZENS FINES & FEES FUND

Right now, our allies at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition need donations. The coalition has launched a new Amendment 4 Fines and Fees Campaign to provide mutual aid for returning citizens' court fines and fees. The campaign needs contributions. You can find a sample email from the coalition to send to your members here.

The coalition has also asked our partner organizations to direct their Florida members who are returning citizens to call 877-MYVOTE0 if they are affected by the new fee requirements. Partners can also direct affected members to www.wegotthevote.org.

DISCLOSE ACT CALL IN DAY: GET DARK MONEY OUT

Next Tuesday, July 16 is the call-in day for the DISCLOSE Act! We need at least 50 of your members to commit to calling their representatives and demanding their support for this bill! Tell your members to call their member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and demand they support the DISCLOSE Act now!

After the landmark democracy legislation H.R. 1 passed in the House, redefining the limits of political possibility for democracy reform, we must be prepared to fight to pass each piece at the national level. As the current administration passes deregulation after deregulation, guts oversight provisions, and grants office appointments to lackeys in service to big industry, our elections are increasingly awash in special interest money. Disclosing sources of dark money is a necessary step to combating the corruption in Washington. We must pass the DISCLOSE Act.

There are still representatives who are NOT signed on as co-sponsors of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 2977) in the House, despite the fact that every single one of them should co-sponsor this common sense bill that would:

  • Expose large sources of secret money in our elections
  • Strengthen the foreign money ban
  • Create a “stand by your ad” provision so that groups who are running and funding a political advertisement must state that they “approve this message” and more.

DI partners and allies Daily Kos, May Day, PFAW, Public Citizen and others are planning to participate by driving calls to elected officials. We need you to join us!

PFAW has produced sample email and targeting materials, as well as sample social posts:

  • Sample Tweet: Sunshine is the best disinfectant! Voters deserve to know who’s spending money to try and influence their vote. Call your member of Congress and tell them to support the DISCLOSE Act now: (202) 224-3121
  • Sample Facebook Post: Americans deserve to know who is spending money to try and influence their vote. Big donors and special interests should be required to disclose their identities and let voters decide for themselves about whether they trust what they’re saying. Call your member of Congress and tell them to support the DISCLOSE Act now: (202) 224-3121

ONE WEEK OUT: 2ND ANNUAL #INTERNEDITION DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING

Our 2nd Annual Democracy Champions #InternEdition Training has reached capacity! 50 interns from over 25 partner organizations have signed up for this exciting event! Don't worry though, as we're maintaining a waiting list, so keep registering!

Our 2nd Annual Democracy Champions Training #InternsEdition is a week away. Attendees will leave the training equipped with a partner resource toolkit that will support their future work in advancing democracy reform in their schools and states.

Our guest speaker and Co-Facilitator is Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. She will be giving the group key lessons and insight into an ongoing democracy fight right in our backyard.

Make sure your interns are on time and ready to be challenged!

RSVP HERE

JULY 17 MOBILIZING MEETING AGENDA: EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFORM IN 2020

Wednesday, July 17, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing Call on Wednesday, July 17 at 3pm EST.

We have a special guest for next week’s Mobilizing Meeting: Sunila Chilukuri with State Innovation Exchange, to provide a roundup of state-level legislative democracy reform victories and roll backs this year, as well as lay out reform opportunities primed for 2020.

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

STATE UPDATES: DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

HAWAII BECOMES 4TH STATE TO IMPLEMENT ALL VOTE-BY-MAIL ELECTIONS

The DI recognizes Common Cause of Hawaii, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and all coalition members who spent years fighting for this powerful reform. On June 26, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed into law legislation that makes the state the fourth to implement all vote-by-mail, joining Oregon, Washington State, and Colorado in providing citizens with mailed balloting. States that implement vote-by-mail tend see an increase in turnout ranging from 2% - 8%, and broadly makes elections more accessible.

Read more here.

IOWA AND NEVADA EXPAND ACCESSIBILITY FOR CAUCUSING

Democrats in Iowa and Nevada will now have the ability to cast caucus votes by phone, according to a new mandate from the Democratic National Committee. The decision to open up neighborhood caucuses to voters calling in provides greater accessibility to the disabled community and to workers with night shifts and child care, allowing more Americans to raise their voices for the issues they care about.  

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

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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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 07.03.19

Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

We are reminded, as returning citizens in Florida are now required to pay thousands of dollars just to vote, while Rick Snyder is granted a Harvard Fellowship after poisoning Flint's water and costing people millions of dollars in damages and health care costs, that democracy is in a dire state. Wishing all a 4th of July full of rest for the fights ahead. —Wendy Fields, Democracy Initiative Executive Director

CITIZENSHIP QUESTION TO REMAIN OFF 2020 CENSUS

According to an announcement from the Trump administration on Tuesday, June 2, forms being printed for the 2020 Census will not have the citizenship question on them. This is a major victory for all of us. Our communities can now ensure its members are counted without worrying about dangerous reprisals from the administration weaponizing their status against them.

While we understand that total victory for the census is still making sure everyone in our communities are counted fairly and accurately, we want to recognize the crucial victory that resulted from tireless, powerful work from leading coalition partners. The Democracy Initiative would like to acknowledge our partners and allies AAJC, Arab American Institute, CASA, Common Cause, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, The LGBTQ+ Task Force, and all the allies that fought so hard for Americans' right to fair representation and access to federal funding.

FLORIDA—WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW

Right now, our allies at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition need donations. The coalition has launched a new Amendment 4 Fines and Fees Campaign to provide mutual aid for returning citizens' court fines and fees. The campaign needs contributions. You can find a sample email from the coalition to send to your members here.

The coalition has also asked our partner organizations to direct their Florida members who are returning citizens to call 877-MYVOTE0 if they are affected by the new fee requirements. Partners can also direct affected members to www.wegotthevote.org.

Last November, voters overwhelmingly passed the historic Amendment 4, which restored the ability to vote to 1.4 million Floridians who had paid their debts to society. Lawmakers quickly set about attempting to limit the effect of the legislation, and on Friday, Governor DeSantis signed into law a modern day poll tax, requiring returning citizens to pay in full their court fees and other associated costs, significantly undermining the will of Florida voters and attacking the rights of thousands of returning citizens.

Advocates for Amendment 4 estimate that nearly one-third of all newly eligible citizens will now be prevented from having their voice heard in elections.

For more information, to offer legal assistance, and learn about more ways to get involved, contact Al Barrentine at al@floridarrc.org.

2nd #INTERNEDITION DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING—SIGN UP NOW

Reserve your interns’ spot soon! Over 40 interns from over 20 partner organizations have already signed up, and we’re running out of room fast!


RSVP HERE

DC STATEHOOD PRESSEr: 80+ ENDORSING ORGs

Evidence of the Washington, D.C. Admission Act's increasing momentum was on display during the Tuesday, July 2 press conference hosted by Congresswoman Eleanor H. Norton's office. Norton announced that 88 national advocacy organizations have endorsed the legislation to give over 700,000 DC residents the representation and voice they deserve.

In addition to her statement observing that "In the last six months, we have built more momentum for D.C. statehood than at any point in our history. With the help of the organizations we announce today, we believe that victory for D.C. statehood is within our reach," many of our partner organizations representing millions of members testified their support for D.C. statehood and democracy.

Those that testified for H.R.51 included Monica Hopkins from the ACLU, Marilyn Carpinteyro from Common Cause, Rob Randhava from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Lauren Kennedy from the Sierra Club. DI partners Common Cause, DCVote, Food & Water Watch, League of Women Voters, NAACP, PFAW, and Sierra Club all showed up to support D.C. residents in their fight for statehood.

STATE UPDATES: DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

NEVADA AND COLORADO EXPAND VOTING RIGHTS TO RETURNING CITIZENS

Just nine months after the historic passage of Amendment 4 in Florida, two states have followed suit as momentum builds toward protecting the voting rights of millions of incarcerated Americans. On July 1, recent legislation took effect in Nevada and Colorado that re-enfranchise citizens who lost their rights to vote after incarceration.

In Nevada, the new law restores the voting rights to returning citizens that have paid their debts to society. Individuals who have finished their sentences will immediately regain their right to vote regardless if they are on parole. This bill, which is aimed towards lowering recidivism rates in Nevada, will restore the voting rights of 77,000 Nevada residents.

Colorado, in a similar move, implemented legislation that allows parolees to vote, thus restoring the voting rights of 11,467 state residents.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.28.19

Friday, June 28, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

SCOTUS DECIDES GERRYMANDERING & CENSUS CASES

We want to recognize DI partners Alliance for Justice, Arab American Institute, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, CASA, Common Cause, Daily Kos, League of Conservation Voters, NAACP, National LGBTQ Task Force, and PFAW for turning out in support of fair representation & a fair and accurate census in 2020. Let us know if we missed you!

REDISTRICTING

The Supreme Court has completely abdicated its responsibility to defend the foundation of our democratic system: government by will of the people. On June 27, SCOTUS narrowly ruled by a 5-4 margin that partisan gerrymandering claims were "nonjusticiable," meaning that it's not within the courts' powers to pass judgment on these kinds of cases. Despite the fact that cases in lower courts in several states across the country have developed clear standards that the judiciary could use to determine if gerrymanders infringed on voting rights, the majority ordered the case dismissed.

By failing to endorse a standard for striking down this deeply undemocratic practice, SCOTUS has effectively given a green light for corrupt politicians to continue to seize power for themselves and choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians.

This ruling has consequences for ongoing redistricting in other states as well, like Michigan. Last year, a redistricting reform ballot initiative, led by Voters Not Politicians, won with 61% of the vote in Michigan. Now, SCOTUS' new ruling means new maps probably won't be set until 2022, allowing the grievously gerrymandered maps to remain in place for next year's elections.

In response to SCOTUS' ruling today and in light of its effect on the redistricting process in Michigan, Elizabeth Battiste of Voters Not Politicians gave us the following statement:

"We are dismayed that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to protect the millions of voters across the country whose constitutional rights are violated by extreme partisan gerrymandering. Michiganders showed that gerrymandering is an issue that impacts all voters, whether we are Republicans, Democrats, Independents or third party supporters. The lower federal courts recognized that, when our political system is broken and our elections are rigged, gerrymandering can and must be stopped by the courts. These anti-democratic practices have run rampant, and today’s decision will only further embolden politicians in the next redistricting cycle. Voters have had enough."

Today's ruling proves that the only ones we can rely on to make change is ourselves. We will continue to stand with partners and fight for redistricting reform state by state, district by district, and make the case for national, lasting reform.

In response to the Supreme Court's decision, Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields gave the following statement:

"This is another reminder that we cannot count on the courts to save us. Where we have won is when the people have risen up at the grassroots and demanded fair districts and fair representation. The people of Michigan did not wait for the courts, but demanded and won change when they overwhelmingly voted to pass Voters Not Politicians' initiative last year."

DI Board Co-Chair and Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn, offered the following statement as one of the plaintiff organizations in the consolidated case Rucho v. Common Cause:

“Today, five Supreme Court Justices turned their backs on hundreds of thousands of people in Maryland and North Carolina stripped of their voice in Washington by power-hungry politicians.  The Supreme Court had the opportunity to end partisan gerrymandering once and for all but instead a narrow majority chose to wash their hands of the undemocratic practice.

Without recourse to the Supreme Court, the American people must continue to take the battle to the state courts, to the polls, and to the streets, to make their voices heard and to end partisan gerrymandering once and for all. 

This decision is part of a disturbing pattern from the Roberts Court of undercutting or eviscerating reforms passed by Congress to protect the integrity of our democracy. This Supreme Court has gutted the landmark Voting Rights Act, shredded campaign finance limits in Citizens United, and now it has condoned extreme partisan gerrymandering.”

DI partner and named plaintiff League of Women Voters of Maryland's Co-President Lois Hybl gave the following statement:

"It is a great disappointment to the voters of Maryland that the Court did not set a standard this term when it comes to partisan gerrymandering. Hearing these cases together was important for political balance. In Maryland, Democrats in power created the gerrymandered district to benefit their party. In North Carolina, it was the Republicans. We have seen both parties abuse this process that takes the power away from voters, and unfortunately, this trend may continue. We will continue to look for ways to level the playing field for voters in Maryland.”

Read more about the ruling here.

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CENSUS

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Census is a cautious victory for those who charged the Department of Commerce (which oversee the Census) with misleading the public over their reasons for adding a citizenship question to the Census—which virtually everyone agreed would result in an under-count in communities of color.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision in the case, known as Department of Commerce v. New York. He said that the Department of Commerce failed to provide “genuine justifications” for the decision to add a citizenship question. “Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise,” he added.

While many observers say that there is not enough time for the Department of Commerce to litigate a better rationale for adding a discriminatory question that would lead to damaging under-counts in under served communities, it is also not certain what will happen next. For now, the Census is barred from asking about respondent’s citizenship, but the Supreme Court did not rule that future efforts to add the question are unconstitutional.

Regardless of what happens in future proceedings, the DI, our partners and allies will continue to fight to ensure our communities are fully and accurately counted, so they can receive the federal funding and political representation they need.

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields, in reaction to the Supreme Court's decision to temporarily block the citizenship question from appearing on the 2020 Census, offered the following statement:

"The citizenship question should never have been on the table. This is about justice and about stopping efforts to take benefits and representation away from communities. We will not limit ourselves to seeing today's decision as total victory on this issue—victory is when everyone is counted."


DI partner and leading group in the fight for a fair, accurate census Arab American Institute's Executive Director Maya Barry offered the following statement:

"While we welcome today’s ruling, the fight is not over. Along with our partners, we will continue to combat disinformation and ensure an accurate count of Arab Americans in 2020 through the YallaCountMeIn campaign. AAI remains committed to a fair and accurate census, to free and fair elections, and to supporting our democracy.”

Read more about the current status of the citizenship question here.

2nd Annual DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS TRAINING #INTERNEDITION

SAVE YOUR SPOT NOW!

Spots are filling up fast. Interns from TEN partner organizations have already signed up to attend this event! Don't miss your chance!


RSVP HERE

BALTIMORE ACTIVISTS CELEBRATE ANOTHER CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM MILESTONE

On Monday, June 24, the Democracy Initiative joined the DI partners and allies who make up Fair Elections Maryland and Baltimore Councilman Kristerfer Burnett at a presser and hearing in front of the Baltimore City Council Building to introduce legislation for a public financing of city elections.

Right now, we need our partners’ Baltimore City members to call their council members and tell them to support Fair Elections in Baltimore City! Click here to find the districts and contact info for Baltimore council members. They can also visit the Baltimore Fair Elections’ website for more information and ways to get involved.

The legislation comes on the heels of Baltimore City voters overwhelming supporting a ballot initiative in the 2018 midterms designed to make candidates for local office accountable to residents, and fight the influence of wealthy special interests and outside money in city elections.

On the subject of the proposed legislation, Councilman Kristerfer Burnett concisely captured the importance of publicly financed elections:

“We want to make sure that there’s a pathway for community leaders and people who are on the ground doing the real work to have a shot to win. We want to force the conversation back into the neighborhoods.”

Read more here.

SHELBY COUNTY V. HOLDER ANNIVERSARY HEARING

The DI acknowledges our allies at the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights for their work organizing the Shelby County v. Holder anniversary week actions.

On June 26, hundreds of partners, allies, and advocates rallied outside the Capitol prior to a congressional hearing for the 6th anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision.


Inside the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Liberties, representatives and witnesses testified how the Shelby County v. Holder demonstrably led to major civil rights violations and discussed steps to take to guarantee the right to vote and fair representation.

Several DI partners and national civil rights leaders testified at the hearing. Witnesses included: President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke; Litigation Deputy Director for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Leah Aden; DI ally and President of the Leadership Conference, Vanita Gupta; 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams; and Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins.

Other speakers at the press conference included: Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL).

STATE UPDATES: DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

MAINE—PINE STATE BECOMES 16TH TO PASS AVR

On Wednesday, June 19, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 1463, making Maine the 16th State in the country to institute automatic voter registration. AVR will allow Maine voters to register with ease by automatically registering citizens who interact with state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles unless they opt out.

We want to acknowledge DI partner The Brennan Center for Justice's role in advising the drafting process. AVR's momentum across the United States is yet another example of the growing state-based movement for democracy reform, and its latest victory is a win for voting rights and expanded accessibility.

Read more.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.20.19

Thursday, June 20, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

SHELBY COUNTY V. HOLDER 6th ANNIVERSARY ACTION

REMINDER:

We're asking our partners to join us in commemorating the 6th Anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision next week by taking THREE actions:

  1. Send FIVE members and staff to the June 25 Hearing, scheduled for 10AM-12PM in Washington DC. RSVP here. The Leadership Conference also has a spreadsheet for events in the stateswe want the DI represented at each event!
  2. Send an action alert to your members, urging them to take action by calling members of Congress (202-224-3121) on Monday, June 24 and tell their legislators that our democracy needs a fully restored Voting Rights Act today.
  3. Tweet and post on social media, acknowledging the moment's growing demand for reform and articulating why your organization supports the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Sample tweets here.

Tuesday, June 25 marks the six-year anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, which infamously gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing states to implement election laws that erected barrier after barrier for Americans trying to vote.

The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights has produced a broad toolkit to help partners and allies commemorate Monday, June 24 to Sunday, June 30  by renewing the call to #RestoreTheVOTE.

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT HERE

We've reproduced a few sample tweets below for quick access:

  • It’s been six years since #SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act. Congress must fix this injustice so that we have the tools to effectively combat current racial discrimination in voting. It’s time for lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to #RestoreTheVOTE!
  • Congress must restore the protections against racial discrimination in voting that #SCOTUS destroyed in 2013. Building a government that is representative of ALL its people is critical to our ability to solve some of our country’s most pressing challenges. #RestoreTheVOTE
  • Without a functional democracy in which everyone is included, heard, and represented, we cannot make real progress on other important civil and human rights issues. That's why Congress MUST pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to #RestoreTheVOTE.

For further information and questions, contact Jordyn Bussey at jbussey@civilrights.org.

UPCOMING DEMOCRACY EVENTS—TAKE ACTION

BALTIMORE FAIR ELECTIONS—PRESSER SCHEDULE

Join us for the kickoff of the Baltimore City Fair Elections implementation bill! After voters overwhelmingly passed Question H for small donor, public financing of elections, we must make sure their demands become reality.

Help us reach our goal of turning out 60 people for the Monday, June 24 press conference and hearing!

WHEN: 4:00PM, Monday, June 24. Hearing begins at 5:00PM.
WHERE: Outside the Council building, 100 N. Holliday St. Baltimore, MD 21202.

Baltimore Fair Elections has provided a one-pager and a sample email to assist with messaging and turnout. Please encourage staff and members in the area to attend.

For more information, contact Joanne Antoine at jantoine@commoncause.org.

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#SHOWUP4DC—DC STATEHOOD HEARING & TOOLKIT

Join us and #ShowUp4DC by attending the July 24 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 July 24, 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. We need you to take action with our partners at DCVote!

For more information and ways to engage, contact Barbara Helmick at bhelmick@dcvote.org.

SAVE THE DATE: DC TRAINING #INTERNEDITION

STATE UPDATES: DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

NEVADA—DEMOCRACY WINS BIG IN LEGISLATIVE SESSION

On May 31, at the close of its 2019 Legislative session, the Nevada legislature passed several laws that expand voting rights and fosters fair and accurate representation. Lawmakers also placed a state constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that enshrines and expands protections for Nevadans' ability to vote.

Some of the laws passed this session include:

  • Ending the prohibition on voting for Nevadans with felony convictions who are on parole, probation, and those permanently disenfranchised.
  • Ending prison gerrymandering, by counting prisoners for redistricting purposes in the district of their last address, rather than the location of the prison in which they’re kept.
  • Expanding early voting availability, and expanding absentee ballot access.
  • Implementing automatic voter registration, which voters passed by ballot measure in the 2018 midterm election, as well as instituting Election Day Registration.

Read more here.

VIRGINIA—SCOTUS STRIKES DOWN RACIAL GERRYMANDER

On Monday, June 17, the Supreme Court ruled against the Virginia House of Delegates in a redistricting case that defines Virginia district maps as constitutive of a racial gerrymander. The Supreme Court dismantled the gerrymander by finding that the Virginia House did not have standing to appeal the lower court’s decision. Now, the House is required to redraw fair maps in time for the 2020 elections. Monday’s victory means Virginia constituents will be able to vote in fair districts that don’t attempt to dilute the votes of Black and brown voters.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.13.19

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

TAKE ACTION

SHELBY COUNTY V. HOLDER 6TH ANNIVERSARY ACTION

Tuesday, June 25 marks the six-year anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, which infamously gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing states to implement election laws that erected barrier after barrier for Americans trying to vote.

Our allies at the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights have produced a broad toolkit to help partners and allies commemorate Monday, June 24 to Sunday, June 30  by renewing the call to #RestoreTheVOTE.

We're asking our partners to join us in commemorating the 6th Anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision by taking TWO actions:

  1. Tweet and post on social media, acknowledging the moment's growing demand for reform and articulating why your organization supports the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Sample tweets and posts are on page five of the toolkit.
  2. Send an action alert to your members, urging them to take action by calling
    members of Congress (202-224-3121) on Monday, June 24 and tell their legislators that our democracy needs a fully restored Voting Rights Act today. A sample action alert is on page ten of the toolkit.

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT HERE

We’ve excerpted the introduction from this excellent resource to echo the importance of commemorating this decision:

In the aftermath of the June 25, 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision—which gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) – states and localities across the country jumped to enact restrictive voting laws, disenfranchising millions of American voters. For six years, civil rights organizations and their allies have been fighting back against these discriminatory laws. But we need Congress to restore the VRA to its full strength to ensure that all eligible voters have equal access to the ballot and that every vote counts.

The toolkit also contains messaging frameworks, pivots to deal with bad faith lines of argument, advice for organizations planning events, and more.

We've reproduced a few sample tweets below for quick access:

  • It’s been six years since #SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act. Congress must fix this injustice so that we have the tools to effectively combat current racial discrimination in voting. It’s time for lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to #RestoreTheVOTE!
  • Congress must restore the protections against racial discrimination in voting that #SCOTUS destroyed in 2013. Building a government that is representative of ALL its people is critical to our ability to solve some of our country’s most pressing challenges. #RestoreTheVOTE
  • Without a functional democracy in which everyone is included, heard, and represented, we cannot make real progress on other important civil and human rights issues. That's why Congress MUST pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to #RestoreTheVOTE.

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT HERE

We need to ensure all Americans have the ability to participate in our democracy. That's why we must demand Congress restore the VRA now.

For further information and questions, contact Jordyn Bussey at jbussey@civilrights.org.

MARYLAND FAIR ELECTIONS—UPDATED EVENT SCHEDULE

UPDATE: The introduction date for the implementation bill of the Baltimore City Fair Election Fund has been moved to Monday, June 24, 2019.

Join us for the kickoff of the Baltimore City Fair Elections implementation bill! The coalition has already won its first victory: the voters of Baltimore City have demanded a program to curb the influence of outside, special interest money in local elections.

Now we must organize to ensure the will of voters is implemented. Help us reach our goal of turning out 60 people for the Monday, June 24 press conference and hearing!

The press conference with Councilman Kristofer Burnett and members of the Baltimore Fair Elections coalition will be happening outside of the Council building at 4:00pm on 100 N. Holliday St. Baltimore, MD 21202. A hearing will follow at 5:00pm.

We're sharing a one-pager and a sample email to assist with engaging your Baltimore City members around the need for a Fair Election Fund and to turn out support at the press conference, courtesy of Baltimore Fair Elections.

JUNE 19 MOBILIZING MEETING AGENDA: BUILDING SMALL DONOR FINANCING IN MARYLAND AND BEYOND

Wednesday, June 19, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing Call on Wednesday, June 19 at 3pm EST.

Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland, will be joining us on next week’s Mobilizing Call. Joanne will discuss the current implementation process of small donor public financing in Baltimore City and provide updates on the press conference introducing the implementation bill happening on June 24.

Now that we are very close to enacting small donor financing in five localities in Maryland, Joanne also will discuss expanding the campaign across the state and offer insight on how the lessons of Maryland can be applied to other states.

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

RSVP HERE

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR OUR COMMUNITIES

At a time when corporate America controls much of the government, we absolutely cannot allow the administration to get away with stealing billions of dollars in funding and crucial representation from black and brown communities. We must stand together with our communities and demand the citizenship question be dropped.

On Thursday, May 30, The New York Times reported that the a GOP strategist had deliberately crafted the citizenship question to underrepresent nonwhite voters and shift power to Republican strongholds. Evidence of this claim arose after his daughter approached DI partner Common Cause with documents from his hard drives.

Thomas B. Hofeller’s greatest project may be his work on the GOP’s gerrymandering strategy—files submitted to the Raleigh courts pertaining to Common Cause v. Rucho indicate that “North Carolina Republicans misled a federal court to prolong the life of their map of state legislative districts, which had been ruled unconstitutional” according to a Times article released June 6.

More importantly, however, is that the North Carolinian partisan is also responsible for the Department of Commerce's recent push to add citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The citizenship question, according to files on the same hard drive, was conceived of as a way to provide future opportunities to solidify gerrymandered districts in favor of his party.

Right now, our partners and allies at the ACLU and Common Cause are fighting to delay the Census decision from the Supreme Court, which is expected by the end of this month, in light of the evidence gathered from Hofeller’s hard drives.

We must be clear in naming the problem: Hofeller and the Trump administration's ploy is designed to strip immigrant, black, and brown communities of millions of dollars and political representation to consolidate their own power. The data collected by the Census Bureau every ten years impacts the federal resources that communities will receive nationwide, determines how our population will be represented in Congress, and defines how new districts are shaped. Nearly $700 billion in federal government resources are at stake. This is an unapologetic power grab, and we must denounce it as such.

STATE UPDATES: DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

TENNESSEE—ANTI-VOTER REGISTRATION LAW PASSES

On June 9, Ezra Rosenberg, Director of the Voting Rights Project at DI partner Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law spoke with The Real News Network to discuss the newly signed Tennessee law devised to disenfranchise and intimidate black voters.

The newly signed law, which is in direct response to grassroots organizing that registered tens of thousands of African Americans in 2018 to vote, has three main parts that penalize Tennessee organizers and voters:

  1. All individuals hired by an organization to register people to vote must be trained and registered by the state and criminalizes any organizer & organization who does not comply.
  2. Specific statements (not yet specified by TN Officials) must be made when any person speaks publicly about voter registration status and is subject to criminal penalties if the required disclosures are not stated.
  3. One hundred or more incomplete applications (not yet defined by TN Officials) will result in sever civil penalties for the organization submitting them, up to $10,000.

Essentially, Rosenberg states,

“Taken as a whole, this bill—which is now a law—imposes unconstitutional burdens in violation of the 1st Amendment and the 14th amendment on this simple act of helping people register to vote.”

Listen to the full interview here.

NORTH CAROLINA—ELECTION SECURITY NONEXISTENT

The Mueller Report made one thing explicitly clear: there was conclusive evidence of a foreign country tampering with our elections. With the integrity of elections threatened by corporate-owned politicians and foreign countries, the utter negligence toward election security must end now. We demand adequate funding and security for our elections now, to ensure all Americans' voices can be heard in the democratic process.

On Friday, June 7, following the disclosure of a cyber security risk within the North Carolina Election system, the state’s poor election security became apparent yet again.

Chris Vickery, a cyber security investigator, found a publicly available file within Amazon Web Services that consisted of administrative passwords and access directions for North Carolina State Board of Elections workers responsible for operating voting machines. Additional documents containing directions on how to reset, test and clear ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines were also publicly available online, sometimes in the same file as the leaked passwords.

Read more here.

 

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEPUTY DIRECTOR—ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS

The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

All applications must be submitted by June 14, 2019.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.06.19

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

THE DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE CELEBRATES PRIDE MONTH

Happy Pride Month to all our partners, allies, and the entire LGBTQ+ community! We reaffirm the fight for a free, representative, and reflective democracy for all Americans, no matter how we express ourselves. Solidarity is one of our greatest strengths.

"LGBTQ rights cannot be separated from the democracy agenda because there is no true democracy without equality." —Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative

Feel free to use this shareable graphic in your social media posts!

BALTIMORE CITY FAIR ELECTION FUND IMPLEMENTATION

Last year, Baltimore City voters stood together and demanded a fairer election system that's free of the corrosive impact of wealthy special interests and empowers all Baltimoreans to run for offices where they can make a difference in their community. On November 6, they turned that demand into a reality.

Baltimore's democracy has long been dominated by a powerful donor class that has more say than everyday people. In light of the recent scandals and new evidence that further exposes the corrupting influence of big donors flooding elections with money, a Baltimore City Fair Election Fund is more necessary than ever.

The introduction date for the implementation bill of the Baltimore City Fair Election Fund is Monday, June 17, 2019. A press conference with Councilman Kristofer Burnett and members of the Baltimore Fair Elections coalition will be held outside of the Council building at 4:00pm on 100 N. Holliday St. Baltimore, MD 21202.

We're sharing a one-pager and a sample email to assist with engaging your Baltimore City members around the need for a Fair Election Fund, courtesy of Baltimore Fair Elections.

Additionally, DI partner Demos has released a short report entitled "Big Money in the Charm City: the white, wealthy donor class that fuels Baltimore's elections," which approaches the urgent need for small donor public funding of elections through a race/class lens. You can read the report here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE UPDATES

DI WELCOMES BRITTNY BAXTER, TRAINING & MOVEMENT BUILDING COORDINATOR

The DI is excited to welcome a new Training & Movement Building Coordinator, Brittny Baxter. Brittny joins us having organized in various capacities over the past decade. Most recently, she was a Regional/Trainer in Broward County for the coordinated efforts to elect Andrew Gillum and the Winning Ticket. Prior to the 2018 midterm elections, she managed a statewide program in partnership with Re: Power (formerly Wellstone Action) to provide training for progressive Democrats, their campaign managers and grassroots organizers to run and win effective campaigns. She’s a Maryland based Consultant and Organizer.

Brittny hails from the rustbelt city of Buffalo NY, where she cut her teeth on local and state legislative races. She is the former Upstate Legislative Organizer for New York Working Families and fought to mobilize and unite labor, EJ, racial justice and community groups across the state on various bills. She has worked on several issue campaigns, from environmental justice and safe staffing to the Fight for $15 and reproductive rights.

A strong supporter of labor and a former AFT organizer for NYSUT, she is committed to the fight for equity for all.

“I stand with the poor, people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants and organized labor, because our liberation is bound together.”

We’re so excited for Brittny to join the DI Team.

DEMOCRACY CHAMPIONS ON THE MOVE

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, Democracy Champion Awardee and Deputy Campaign Director of Michigan’s Promote the Vote midterm campaign Brandon Jessup published an op-ed in The Detroit News advocating for the bold, comprehensive democracy reform embodied by H.R. 1.

In the piece, Jessup rightly links the effectiveness of H.R. 1’s reform package to the success of bold, citizen-led campaigns in the states:

The For the People Act will curb the big money politics that led to and continues to fuel Flint’s water crisis, putting our elections back in the hands of everyday citizens. The bill will multiply the power of small donors, bring dark money into the light, and strengthen oversight and accountability of public servants.

The bill also builds on decades of pioneers who spent their lives making it easier to vote. More than 40 years ago, Michigan’s first African-American elected to statewide office, Secretary of State Richard Austin, implemented the nation’s first “motor voter” law, allowing citizens to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license. Michigan wouldn’t see another reform like this until last year’s midterm elections, when a near super-majority of voters approved constitutional amendments to end gerrymandering, create an automatic voter registration system, allow same-day registration, and implement no-excuse absentee voting – reforms that are expected to empower 300,000 new voters in 2020.

Read more here.

LET NY VOTE FINAL PRIORITIES—ACTION & SIGN-ON LETTER

Last month, advocates from across New York State stood together at the Capitol three times to support Let NY Vote Coalition's remaining three priorities — Automatic Voter Registration, voting rights for people on parole, and a shorter party enrollment deadline.

With less than three weeks left in the session, leadership is telling the coalition that it’s possible to win these fights if we put enough pressure on our elected representatives.

The advocacy and strength of our coalition has helped to change the conversation in New York and gain more sponsors and more support throughout both houses of the legislature. The session ends on June 19, so this is the crucial last chance for representatives to hear from your members.

The Let NY Vote coalition needs your state based members to take action this week to help pass their remaining priorities!

We’ve already won historic voting reforms this year because of the actions taken from people like you. Let’s make history again.

The Let NY Vote Coalition is also seeking signatures of organizations to support their call for the NY Legislature to end felony disenfranchisement altogether.

You can view the sign-on letter here.

For more information or to add your organization's signature, contact Isabel Zeitz-Moskin at IsabelZM@nationalactionnetwork.net.

STAND WITH DC AGAINST POLICY RIDERS

DI partner DC Vote is circulating a sign-on letter standing against policy riders and Congress using the budget process to override the will and interests of Washington, D.C. residents. Join DC Vote in standing against the usurpation of DC residents' autonomy.  

For more information or to add your organization's signature, contact Barbara Helmick at bhelmick@dcvote.org.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

All applications must be submitted by June 14, 2019.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 05.30.19

Thursday, May 30, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

Polling & Political Reform Resources

Over 25 groups attended the most recent Bi-Weekly Mobilizing Meeting on messaging; we want to thank all of our participants for great turnout via video and in person. It's clear to us that there's a demand for co-creation of messaging and organizing materials, and we're looking forward to reconvening and continuing the conversation on Wednesday, June 5 at 3:00pm.

Our most recent Mobilizing Meeting featured an insightful presentation from special guest Michael Podhorzer, Senior Adviser to the President of AFL-CIO and former AFL-CIO Political Director, on recent polling on political reforms and its implications for the way we talk about the democracy agenda.

In particular, research from Navigator’s latest report illuminates certain pitfalls in boilerplate progressive narratives that arise from the distance between democracy advocates and the American public’s awareness and knowledge of reforms. Podhorzer’s presentation focused on those gaps and walked us through the essential takeaways of the report.

We’re sharing the presentation, courtesy of Michael Podhorzer, as a companion to the report and to serve as a useful resource in developing effective reform messaging that meets people where they are, providing real opportunities for education and tools for organizing their communities to build demand for change.

You can download the slides here. Download the meeting recording here.

BREAKING NEWS: CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IS A PARTISAN POWER-GRAB

According to an article released Thursday, May 30, the citizenship question was deliberately added as a means to shift power to Republican strongholds. A North Carolinian partisan named Thomas B. Hofeller, responsible for the state's grievously gerrymandered maps, conceived of the citizenship question as a way to provide future opportunities to solidify gerrymandered districts in favor of his party. After his recent death, documents recovered on personal hard drives reveal that he also directly supplied the Justice Department with the defense it needed to justify adding the citizenship question: opportunistically claiming it was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  

DI Board Co-Chair and Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn issued the following statement in response:

“The evidence reveals that the plan to add the citizenship question was hatched by the Republicans’ chief redistricting mastermind to create an electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. This contradicts testimony by Administration officials that they wanted to add the question to benefit Latino voters, when in fact the opposite was true.”

With the addition of the Citizenship question formally added by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, there is a high possibility that the population data of the 2020 census will drastically under represent immigrant communities. The deliberate move to under count these communities diminishes their representation and their political power.

The data collected by the Census Bureau every ten years impacts the federal resources that communities will receive nationwide and defines how our population will be represented in Congress. Census data collected in 2020 will determine how more than $675 billion in federal government resources will be distributed each year until 2030. It determines how much federal funding public schools will receive; where new roads will be built, or old ones be improved; how much federal funding will go to local Medicare and Medicaid programs; and will predict where the private sector will potentially build new homes and businesses.

More importantly, this data will define how many congressional seats each state receives and how those new districts will be shaped. The census can be the catalyst for a fairer system of political representation in congress or an obstacle to it if an accurate count is not achieved.

We cannot allow this to happen, especially after the ploy has been revealed as an undemocratic plot to secure power at the expense of the people.

We should not anticipate the Supreme Court to rule against the Secretary, but rather prepare a strategy of education and outreach that will combat the fear that will be stoked in immigrant communities, should the question be left on the final census form.

As Sonum Nerurkar, Get Out the Count Manager of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, attests:

“The 2020 Census is less than a year away and it is critical that all communities get counted. At its core the census is about money, power, people and information. The census, a headcount of every person in the United States that happens once every 10 years, and is the foundation of our democracy. By allocating the number of seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives, the census determines how much of a voice each state has in Congress. The data collected also guides how federal money that goes to our communities is distributed—including money for schools, hospitals, and critical programs like SNAP and Medicaid. Communities of color, renters, young children, and immigrants are a few hard-to-count communities that are missed every census. That means these communities are deprived of the resources and representation they deserve."

"With the Trump Administration’s continuous attacks on immigrants and communities of color, including the addition of the untested citizenship question to the 2020 Census, census advocates have an uphill battle ahead of us to ensure our communities are counted."

DI partner Arab American Institute has compiled an issue brief that both handily summarizes the key parts of the fight for a fair census, and identifies priorities for local, state, and national level advocates in their preparation for the 2020 Census.

Download the brief here.

With the Supreme Court's ruling on the citizenship question expected to come down in the next two weeks, it's more important than ever to educate members on the ground on how to organize themselves to ensure everyone is counted. All Americans deserve to receive full political representation and the resources they need to survive and flourish.

To learn more and to find ways to engage, you can visit CensusCounts.org.

STATE DEMOCRACY ROUNDUP

MARYLAND

On Friday, May 24, the will of Maryland voters finally became law. Last November, voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative allowing voters to register to vote on the day of the election.

The bill that lays out the procedure for Election Day Registration in Maryland just passed into law last Friday, without the signature of Governor Hogan. We want to acknowledge all the work our partners and allies Common Cause Maryland, Indivisible, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Maryland PIRG, Represent Maryland, SEIU, Working Families Party and others accomplished, without which truly transformative reforms like election day registration would not be possible.

Read more here.

* * *

TEXAS

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley resigned Monday, May 27, after serving a brief tenure marked by his attempt to illegally purge Texas voters from the rolls by flagging 98,000 names for citizenship checks after stoking fears of mass voter fraud.

In April, the state ceased its review after swift legal challenges from DI partners League of Women Voters of Texas, Mi Familia Vota Educational Fund, UnidosUS, and other allies, as well as local communities and organizations on the ground; over the course of the legal challenge and through the state's settlement it became clear that at least a third of these names were flagged by error or due to their status as naturalized citizens.

Read more here.

* * *

NEVADA

Wednesday, May 22, marked an important victory in the fight to ensure all Americans have a voice in our democracy: the Nevada State Legislature passed a bill restoring the ability to vote to citizens who have completed their prison sentences. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk, who’s expected to sign the bill into law. Congratulations to the state coalition.

Read more here.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Last Thursday, May 23, the New Hampshire Senate unanimously passed legislation creating a bipartisan redistricting commission for the drawing of state district maps. While the original bill proposed an independent commission, this compromise bill will nevertheless make it more difficult for partisan gerrymanders to occur.

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

All applications must be submitted by June 14, 2019.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

* * *

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 05.23.19

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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

WHEN DEMOCRACY WINS, ALL OF OUR ISSUES CAN WIN

We sat down with Hilda Nucete, Deputy Director of Civic Engagement at the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, to talk about how Colorado’s robust and exemplary voting model has facilitated work on the issues that LCV members care about: conserving and defending the environment. These comments were edited slightly for clarity and concision.

On the importance of democracy reform to LCV and LCVEF's work, Nucete said:

"Well, one of the biggest ideas we increasingly understand is that those folks who are most disenfranchised in our political system are the ones suffering the most when it comes to environmental injustice and environmental degradation. There’s a clear connection between those individuals who have been historically disenfranchised and those neighborhoods that have been historically polluted and dumped on. Industries have believed that those individuals don’t have a voice and they won’t be represented, and their community won’t show up.

That is why it is so important that we’re building a full cycle of civic engagement, like with our CHISPA program at LCV, where we have a program that is civic-engagement based with community engagement and organizing."

It's clear that when our voting laws provide accessible entry points for all into the democratic process, communities are able to act on the issues that matter most to them. Nucete adds:

"This past cycle in 2018 we did a lot of voter registration work. We actually registered over 10,000 voters in the Denver metro area and Pueblo county. Pueblo is one of the communities that doesn’t get a lot of civic engagement support—not a lot of money is invested in those communities to turn out and vote, so it was such a great experience to be able to go into that community and create connections.

In general, when there are more ways for everybody’s voices to be represented, we really do have a better democracy and environment. One of the biggest values, independent of political parties, is the Great Outdoors. And it's a kind of third political rail that no one touches in Colorado because it has such great value to Coloradans. So we understand that when our community is more active and voting, the environment wins."

We’re also sharing LCVEF’s Why Voting Rights Matter document, an excellent messaging example of articulating the value of democracy advocacy through an enviro lens.

To download the resource, click here.

SHIFTING NARRATIVES: DEMOCRACY ON THE OFFENSIVE

DI partner ReThink Media has released an exciting new narrative guide: “From Defense to Offense: Shifting the Narrative on Voting Rights,” intended for all voting rights advocates and organizations seeking guidance on how to incorporate a democracy rap into their own issue campaigns. ReThink’s new guide offers the latest in message guidance, narrative tips, and data from multiple research projects.

The vast majority of Americans understand that we can only have free and fair elections if all eligible voters have equitable access to the franchise. As advocates, we know how to make this a reality. But we could better frame the fight to undo barriers to the ballot.



To quote their shorter, public version of the guide at length:

While advocates have seen success in the courtroom, the state legislature, and the ballot box, we have had less success shifting public opinion and engagement. For the past several years, the movement has been playing defense and delivering our messages on the opposition’s terrain. A ReThink analysis found that discussion of vote fraud, voter ID, and efforts to limit and make voting more difficult made up about 40% of news coverage in 2016 and 2017—far more than discussion of pro-voter policies. And because Voting Rights advocates are used to fighting legal and legislative battles to defend rights, our messaging is too often defensive. We also spend a lot of time refuting our opponents’ disinformation and the resulting negative public perceptions, which leads to adopting our opposition’s language and repeating and reinforcing their negative frames.

This guide will help you do just that. In it, ReThink breaks down key challenges we face in messaging our voting rights efforts and offers a variety of solutions to better set the narrative. There are also policy-specific examples, both for proactive and reactive proposals.

To download the full message guide, email Emma Weinstein-Levy at emmaw@rethinkmedia.org.

STATE DEMOCRACY ROUNDUP

FLORIDA—TAKE ACTION NOW

On Wednesday, May 8, Florida Governor Rick DeSantis announced that he intends to sign into law a bill that requires returning citizens whose ability to vote was restored to pay all financial obligations before voting. The change, which some are calling a modern poll-tax, was passed by Florida lawmakers as a reaction to 5.1 million Floridians voting to restore the ability to vote to returning citizens who had completed their sentences, leading to the largest re-enfranchisement measure in decades.

Right now, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and DI partner League of Women Voters are working on organizing and coordinating lawyers around strategy and assisting returning citizens with navigating the new changes instituted after Amendment 4's passage.

For more information and ways to get involved, contact Al Barrentine at al@floridarrc.org.

 

Desmond Meade, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and a key Democracy Champion in the fight for voting rights, recently made the following statement on next steps:

What is most important is that we roll of our sleeves now and get behind Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s expansive effort that will involve state and national support to register not just these individuals, but those in the communities most impacted who are often not registered. —Desmond Meade

 

* * *

MICHIGAN

Misinformation about voting is a serious problem. The ACLU of Michigan, leaders on the Promote the Vote MI campaign in the 2018 midterms, is putting out a call to report any and all outdated and incorrect information around voting policies that have changed since the passage of Prop 3.

Last week, the ACLU of Michigan contacted the Michigan Secretary of State regarding the widespread problem of misinformation on local city and township websites and in some cases, in written material. In a very small review of websites, they found instances where voters were told they had to register thirty days prior to an election or needed an excuse to vote absentee, both of which are no longer true after the passage of Promote the Vote.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections recently admonished all clerks to remove inaccurate info from their websites! But this is just the first step in ensuring voters have accurate information.

If you see misinformation about voting in Michigan, please report it to Sharon Dolente, Voting Rights Strategist, ACLU of Michigan at sdolente@aclumich.org.

Meanwhile, state legislators continue their efforts to undermine the will of voters by attempting to use the state budget to gut the Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission established by voters last November.

Voters Not Politician's Executive Director Nancy Wang condemns this power grab, because it clearly "defies the will of the 2.5 million Michiganders who amended the state Constitution specifically to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and [who] placed it with an independent citizens’ redistricting commission."

Read more here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 05.16.19

Thursday, May 16, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

FEATURED RESOURCE: OUR COMMUNITIES, OUR POWER | DEMOCRACY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

DI partner NAACP recently released an incredible action toolkit, entitled Our Communities, Our Power: Advancing Resistance and Resilience in Climate Change Adaptation. The entire toolkit provides countless resources for organizers and activists, but it also functions as an extended demonstration of understanding the urgent problems our country faces across issue silos.

We wanted to specifically draw on Module 7: Democracy and Governance, and hold it up as a powerful example of democracy reform understood as a bridging device for political change, unifying a diverse and driven coalition to seek political change through the reform movement.

To quote the module’s introduction at length:

Government should be accountable to the people, transparent in practice, inclusive of all people, participatory and accessible, representative of the groups it serves, and responsive to the needs of those people. As it is, many of the institutions that govern our communities—even those that intended to be democratic—do not embody these characteristics. Instead of serving the people they help a small, privileged segment of people and big corporations get richer.

An important part of building community resilience is reforming our systems of governance to reflect a vision of deep democracy that is truly by the people and for the people. Deep democracy is the practice of democracy that recognizes the importance of all voices in a group or society, especially those on the margins. It is about fostering a strong sense of community, inclusion, power, and participation so that people have meaningful control over the decisions that affect their daily lives, including planning for climate change.

We can’t address the root causes of climate change with a “democracy” that’s working for the companies that have caused climate change— like fossil fuel companies. We need government that is truly representative and responsive, where corporate money and power do not reign.

What do we mean by all of this?

  • Everybody in the community should be able to actively contribute to the democratic processes, like voting and providing input on how money is spent.
  • Resources are made available to everyone, not just people with money or other forms of power.
  • People of all ages are seen as community members with value.
  • Election results reflect the consensus among all people in a community, not the people with the most money In this module we outline several strategies to deepen democracy and improve methods of governance in our communities.”

In this module we outline several strategies to deepen democracy and improve methods of governance in our communities.”

You can access the full toolkit here.

If you're interested in joining the DI's Enviro Working Group, contact Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

WHY WE FIGHT

Two weeks ago, the diverse, young and powerful Sunrise Movement was awarded the Henry Wallace Award by Wallace Global Fund for their decisive advocacy of an environmentally sustainable future for all people, and their role in placing the urgent climate crisis into the center of national discourse.

We're sharing two videos from this event to acknowledge the importance of this moment in our country, where corrosive money wielded by corporate interests continues to win deregulation after deregulation from this administration at the expense of our planet and our future.

The Sunrise Movement reminds us that we cannot fight for a sustainable, healthy environment without a responsive, reflective democracy accountable to the people, not wealthy lobbies. Rev. Barber's timely address reaffirms the history and power of direct action, to win voting rights for all Americans, and to use our power to remake our democracy in the image of a moral, just society.

We also want to highlight that the Sunrise Movement's video and Rev. Barber's speech serve as powerful articulations of the issues that confront all Americans, and the urgency for all of us to rally behind a bold, diverse and unified movement to fight the corporate hijacking of our government and build a sustainable, equitable and democratic future.

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Click on the thumbnail to watch Rev. Barber's speech.

STATE DEMOCRACY ROUNDUP

MICHIGAN—TAKE ACTION NOW

On November 6, 2018, Michigan voters made it clear they want an impartial and transparent redistricting process and fair and secure elections when they voted overwhelmingly to pass both Proposal 2 and Proposal 3.

Now, politicians are trying to undermine the voters by slashing the Secretary of State’s elections budget and decreasing funding for the Commission.

This unprecedented move will jeopardize the security of future elections and the success of Michigan’s new fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process.

We cannot let politicians continue to go against the will of the people they are supposed to represent. We must stand together and fight back so that our votes count and our voices are heard.

We need your Michigan members to call their state Representative and Senator, before the vote likely to take place any day now. Our allies at Voters Not Politicians have put together a short script to help your members demand accountability from their legislators.

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FLORIDA

 

Congratulations to DI partners Demos, Mi Familia Vota, SEIU, UnidosUS, and coalition allies for their recent victory on behalf of Spanish speaking voters in Florida. Last Friday, May 10, a federal district judge in Florida issued an order granting a further preliminary injunction in the Demos’ ongoing VRA Section 4(e) litigation. Demos, along with LatinoJustice, SEIU, and Altshuler Berzon LLP brought the case to secure compliance with Section 4(e)'s non-discrimination requirement with respect to Spanish-speaking voters educated in Puerto Rico.

By the March 2020 presidential primary, official ballots must be available in Spanish, assistive voting machines for the disabled community must function in Spanish as well as English, all other election related materials, including voter guides, absentee and provisional ballot materials, voter registration materials, and websites, must be available in Spanish, the counties must provide a hotline where voters can get assistance during early voting and on election day, and counties must make best efforts to recruit bilingual poll-workers.

Read more here.

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ILLINOIS

DI partners Illinois Common Cause and League of Women Voters Illinois are hosting a field hearing for H.R. 1 and campaign finance reform on May 19 at 4 p.m. at Cantigny Park’s Visitor Center, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton.

The program will begin with a town hall discussion led by U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, on H.R. 1, the For the People Act. The legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and is designed to modernize the election system, reform redistricting and restore the Voting Rights Act. Former State Sen. Daniel Biss will moderate the town hall.

There will also be a panel discussing about how the national campaign finance reform movement connects with local and state policy in Illinois. Panel members will include Elizabeth Lindquist, the League of Women Voters of Illinois Issues Specialist for Campaign Finance Reform, and Illinois state Senators Laura Ellman, D-Naperville, and Suzy Glowiak, D-Western Springs.

Please register here and encourage your members to attend!

Read more about the field hearing here.

MAY 22 MOBILIZING MEETING AGENDA

Wednesday, May 22, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing call on Wednesday, May 22 at 3pm EST.

Michael Podhorzer, former political director for the AFL-CIO and current Adviser to AFL-CIO President Trumka, will be joining us and will present key findings from recent polling, focusing on issues related to democracy reforms. He will take us beyond to summaries and share insights into what strategies and narratives work when it comes to making the case for political reform.

This is an excellent opportunity for communications team members, who may not regularly participate in the Mobilizing Meetings, to join us either in person at the DI offices or via video conference.

For more information, email Christopher Honey at choney@democracyinitiative.org.

RSVP HERE

NEW PARTNER STAFF ORIENTATION

You’re invited to the DI new staff orientation!

Do you have a new staff on your team? Does their work intersect with democracy? To get familiar with the Democracy Initiative and how your organization can best work together, we’re excited to extend an invitation for anyone on your team to join our monthly new staff orientation call, a 30-45 minute call (video conference) on the last Thursday of every month. The new staff orientation is open to the point of contacts, communications or any staff that engages our program or campaign efforts around democracy.

The next new staff orientation call is Thursday May, 23.  

For additional information on the new staff orientation contact Getachew Kassa at gkassa@democracyinitiative.org.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE JOB OPPORTUNITIES

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

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DI partner Democracy Matters—a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to giving students in pro-democracy issues—is offering paid part-time internships during the academic year from September through May.

See the full posting here.

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