The DI Report

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 01.17.20

Friday, January 17, 2020
"This will be the day when we shall bring into full realization the dream of American democracya dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few." —Martin Luther King, Jr.

"This MLK Day, let's commit to making 2020 the year to take greater risk to win the greater reward of realizing the dream of American Democracy!" —Wendy Fields

10 YEARS SINCE CITIZENS UNITED

Ten years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered its opinion in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the notorious ruling that allowed for the first time in the country’s history corporation to spend unlimited amounts of money in federal elections. According to an analysis of FEC data (via OpenSecrets.org) by DI partner Public Citizen, over 2,200 corporations and corporate trade groups have spent a total of $539 million for the purpose of influencing federal elections. Furthermore, the decision led to the proliferation of “dark money” groups, which are organizations that are not required to disclose information about themselves; since 2010, dark money groups have spent $1 billion influencing our elections that we know about—the real total is undoubtedly higher.

The DI, as a member of the Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) coalition, is participating in a day of social media action on Tuesday, January 21, marking the ten-year anniversary by demanding an end to corporate personhood. You can find a sample social media kit, courtesy of DFAD, here. Tag us at @Unite4Democracy when you tweet about this on Tuesday and we'll be sure to retweet you.

In that time, however, there has been another movement at the grassroots that is gaining momentum across the country. Nearly four years ago, a diverse mass mobilization of thousands of activists and advocates from nearly 300 labor, environmental, civil rights, and faith organizations descended on Capitol Hill for the Democracy Awakening demonstration, a unprecedented display of solidarity and direct action to demand an equal voice in our democracy. Over the past three years, the reform movement demanding money out of politics, expansion of voting rights, and fair representation has grown rapidly with state and local level victories across the country, culminating in the historic 2019 passage in the US House of the For the People Act (H.R. 1).

H.R. 1 brings dark money into the light, gives small-dollar donors a bigger say in our elections, tightens rules on super PACs, and tightens enforcement by making the FEC work again. Under H.R. 1, anyone who breaks the rules will be held accountable. So far, the Senate has not acted on H.R. 1. It lies in Mitch McConnell's legislative graveyard, along with many other House-passed priorities of importance to DI partners.

As we've seen many local and state democracy wins over the past few years, the American people are clamoring for a fair and inclusive democracy. There is a real opportunity to deliver change, but to realize that promise and be ready to govern in 2021, we must aggressively increase voter participation. DI partners have set the bar high—committing to work toward 75% as an ultimate goal and by fighting for essential reforms such as Vote at Home, Same Day Registration and Early Voting, all of which will make it easier for people to have their say in governance.

DI DEPUTY DIRECTOR JOINS #FIREDRILLFRIDAYS

One week ago today, actress and activist Jane Fonda led the fourteenth #FireDrillFriday demonstration in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C., a series of actions demanding that our elected officials take immediate action to address the growing climate crisis; each demonstration is followed by a direct action, where Jane Fonda has joined activists and numerous well-known guests and risked arrest.

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields was arrested at the first ever #FireDrillFriday, and wrote a piece reflecting on the ways in which the climate crisis intersects with the fight to increase voter participation and disrupt the corporate money flooding our politics.

DI Deputy Director Jennifer Lamson was arrested on the steps of the Capitol alongside nearly 150 activists during the January 10 Fire Drill Friday. The majority of those risking arrest, including Lamson, blocked the steps to the Capitol building, while two dozen activists led by Bill McKibben, Senior Adviser and Co-Founder of DI partner 350.org, occupied Chase Bank for their financing of the fossil fuel industry.

Lamson had this to say:

"I recently joined the DI staff after many years of working on environmental issues out of deep concern about handing off to our children a world that is facing inextricably linked twin crises of existential proportion: climate change and the degradation of democracy in the US and across the globe. I've been an activist and an advocate for three decades but this is the first time I've exercised my democratic rights in this way and faced arrest. There were many first of us first-timers there last week, a sign of the times. We also have other important tools at our disposal to reclaim our government from the clutches of the fossil fuel industry and other privileged elites—beginning with massive civic engagement and 75% voter participation in November 2020. Let's do this."

DI Board Member and Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica also participated in civil disobedience on the Capitol steps, and former DI Board Member and Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard has been helping to lead the charge on Fire Drill Fridays since day one. Greenpeace is expanding the Fire Drill Friday effort. You can learn more here.

TAKE ACTION: VIRGINIA AND WOMEN'S MARCH 2020

VIRGINIA—THE RIGHT FOR ALL VIRGINIANS TO OBTAIN DRIVERS LICENSES
It was great to see so many of you at our Mobilizing meeting this week.  Things are heating up quickly in Virginia - the Senate passed no excuse absentee (SB111) early voting on Monday, January 12, and the House version (HB1) will be heard on House floor on January 21. If signed into law, it will be available in time for the 2020 General Election. AVR and SDR would be phased in after 2020. AVR and SDR bills have also been introduced. If you want to stay informed on the progress of all these measures, as well as how to engage your Virginia affiliates and members, please sign up here for the DI Virginia work group.

Virginia Drivers Licenses for all: Immediate Action Needed

DI anchor partner CASA, along with 32BJ SEIU, New Virginia Majority and many others, have been working for 5 years to ensure that all Virginia residents can obtain drivers licenses, regardless of immigration status. Nearly 100 VA organizations and businesses have signed on to a letter of support for allowing immigrants to qualify for the standard Virginia license. You can also add your Virginia affiliate as a co-signer of the letter by Monday, January 20.

There is an important Senate Caucus meeting coming on the evening of Monday, January 20 where this issue is expected to be discussed. If you have a Virginia affiliate or membership that can be activated, please help get some calls of support on Monday, January 20 into these two key Senators:

  • Senator David Marsden (D-Fairfax County), Chair of the Transportation Committee: 804-698-7537
  • Senator Lynnwood Lewis (D-Eastern Shore/Norfolk/Hampton): 757-787-1094

Sample Message: We believe in building an equitable Virginia, and this can only be achieved if we don’t create a second class drivers card for some in our community. Ensuring that all Virginians can access the standard drivers license reduces opportunities for discrimination.This is a better approach than establishing a separate system for immigrants, which opens the door to targeting the individuals who would access that separate card. Please become a co-patron of SB643 and support access to drivers licenses for all!

JOIN US—WOMEN'S MARCH 2020
The DI is proud to join partners and allies as a partner of the 2020 Women's March, the culmination of over three years of a growing movement uniting against attacks on women's bodies, rights, immigrant communities, democracy, and planet. Programming begins tomorrow morning, January 18 at 10am at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC.

The Women's March is still asking for social media posts to drive folks to RSVP for the march, and has provided a social media toolkit to assist partners that you can find here.

We look forward to seeing you there.

PARTNER CORNER

DI PARTNERS & ALLIES SEND LETTER URGING ELECTED OFFICIALS RESTORE FEC QUORUM
In response to a letter written by 31 attorneys specializing in campaign finance law dated January 6, the DI joined 20 partners and coalition allies, including Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, and others in urging the administration and Senate to restore voting quorum to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The letter specifically calls for a single Commissioner, as opposed to a full slate, to be appointed in order to allow the FEC to conduct its business in the period leading up to the 2020 elections. The letter argues that a full slate of six new Commissioners that includes nominees who are opposed to the mission of the agency would only serve to hamstring the FEC’s enforcement of election laws.

Read more here.

PARTNERS HOST WE THE PEOPLE 2020 FORUM WITH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN IOWA
On Sunday January 19 at 3:00pm Central time, Huffington Post will join with DI partners and allies Common Cause, MoveOn Political Action, NAACP, PFAW, Public Citizen and others to host We The People 2020: Protecting our Democracy a Decade After Citizens United.

The forum, which will be attended by Democratic presidential candidates Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Governor Deval Patrick, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, will discuss the candidates’ plans for structural reform to our democracy, especially concerning getting money out of politics, protecting the right to vote, and ensuring equal representation.

You can find the livestream here.

DI BOARD MEMBERS ON THE MOVE

Former DI Board Member and longtime democracy advocate Miles Rapoport’s latest for American Prospect, “Not a Typo: States Made 2019 a Historic Year for Election Reform,” provides a refreshing reminder of the crucial, mounting gains made by states across the country in the fight for a truly inclusive, fair, representative democracy.

“As states like Texas and Georgia continue to make headlines for their extreme efforts to limit voting, a far greater number are actually going the other way. In fact, 2019 saw more states advance more election reforms than at any time since the progressive era of the early 20th century. Pro-voter policies ranging from same day registration, automatic voter registration, and voting rights restoration to redistricting reform and the National Popular Vote compact saw breakthrough gains.

While most of these reforms were enacted in states controlled by Democrats, in several states where Republican governors or legislators had acted to suppress the right to vote in 2016 and 2018, reforms were nonetheless enacted in 2019.”

Read the full piece here.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

WISCONSIN—ORDER TO PURGE 209,000 VOTERS HALTED
On Tuesday, January 14, a Wisconsin court of appeals halted an order to purge immediately up to 209,000 voters from the state’s rolls. The original case was brought to court by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm and member of the State Policy Network (SPN)—the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The firm tried to force the purge to happen immediately, clearing the voting rolls of 6.3% of the state’s registered voters in time for the 2020 elections.

DI partner League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, alongside the bipartisan state elections commission, successfully filed suit to halt the purge, with the intention of allowing the state election commission to proceed with their plan to revisit the issue after the 2020 elections.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 01.10.20

Friday, January 10, 2020
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

ORGANIZING FOR DEMOCRACY: VICTORY IN 2020

Over the last decade, legislation to address civil rights, voting rights, the climate crisis, affordable healthcare, raising the minimum wage, protecting good jobs and expanding the ability of workers to form unions has been thwarted by a political system in the grips of corporations and wealthy interests. Time and again, Washington has failed to pass comprehensive legislation that recognizes the power of our voices, that improves our quality of life, or that helps us leave our children a better world. The need for robust, comprehensive reform is urgent, and the need for a plan to get us there has never been clearer.

That’s why partners and leaders from across the country who lead the work in the labor, civil rights, environmental, and good government groups who convened at our Annual Meeting last fall committed to build power in 2020 through a two-pronged strategy:

  1. Dramatically increasing civic participation in 2020 is a vital step toward ultimately achieving 75% voter turnout nationwide in elections at the local, state, and national level. In 2016, only 61% of eligible Americans cast ballots. Low turnout is the result of systematic barriers, outright voter suppression and a general lack of public engagement. The end result is a weakening of our democracy and a loss of accountability. The lower the percentage of Americans who vote, the greater the influence of powerful elites, big donors, and corporations.

  2. Restoring effective governance in Washington. Outdated, undemocratic, and rigged rules allow a powerful and privileged small group of Senators representing wealthy interests stop us from tackling our greatest challenges while they pass tax cuts for the elites and bury the bills we care about.

Everyday people across the country are fighting and winning democracy and voting rights reforms at the local and state levels. People from all walks of life are standing together for better healthcare, environmental justice and higher wages. The grassroots are demanding change.

To build on this momentum, our coalition will look for developing opportunities in the states to increase the demand for national reform. One of the first opportunities to deliver the kind of meaningful reform necessary for achieving the DI’s vision is the state of Virginia, where recent elections have created the conditions for legislative opportunities for reform. Governor Northam announced on Monday, January 6 his intentions to support bills lengthening the state’s early voting period to 45 days, allowing no excuse absentee voting, and making Election Day a state holiday.

We will be joined by leaders from CASA, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and New Virginia Majority to discuss opportunities for reform at our next Mobilizing Meeting (details below). We look forward to seeing you there.

SENATE WATCH: GRAHAM SUGGESTS SENATE RULES CHANGE WHEN IT SUITS HIM

Senator Lindsey Graham stated during a recent Fox News appearance that he’d be willing to change Senate Rules to override the House and begin a Senate impeachment trial without their participation:

“Well, we’re not going to let Nancy Pelosi use the rules of the Senate to her advantage […] If we don't get the articles this week, then we need to take matters in our own hands and change the rules, deem them to be delivered to the Senate so we can start the trial, invite the House over to participate if they would like, if they don't come, dismiss the case and get on with governing the country.”

This would not be the first time Senate Republicans change the rules when it serves their party's interests.

Mitch McConnell has spent a decade breaking the Senate by corrupting the filibuster and other Senate norms and rules to ensure that the privileged and powerful win and everyone else loses. For instance, Republicans changed the rules to ensure tax cuts can pass with a simple majority, but climate, healthcare, civil rights, workers' rights and democracy reform have all faced a 60-vote threshold for passage and ended up in McConnell's legislative graveyard.

This is why governance is a central theme of our 2020 campaign. Inaction and gridlock breed voter cynicism and contempt toward government. People grow apathetic and don't believe their votes matter. They have heard too many promises and experienced too few results. There is strong public support for our values of inclusion and justice and opportunity for all. Policies built on those values can meet the challenges we face. With an eye toward 2021, we must demand that the Senate be able to govern effectively and vote on those policies so America can rise to this moment.

PARTNER CORNER: #USMAILNOTFORSALE

On January 6, 2020, DI partner American Postal Workers Union, joined by partners AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, NAACP, NALC, Our Revolution, Public Citizen and other coalition allies, delivered 400,000 signed petitions to the United States Postal Service headquarters demanding the Postal Board of Governors appoint a Postmaster General who will preserve the Postal Service’s status as a service of, for, and by the people—not corporations.

We stand in solidarity with our partners APWU and NALC as they fight corporate greed and the administration’s attempts to sell off of our public services to the highest bidder.

JANUARY MOBILIZING MEETING: VIRGINIA VOTING & DEMOCRACY AGENDA

We’re excited to convene the first Mobilizing Meeting of 2020 on Wednesday, January 15 at 3 PM EST.

Please join us to hear about the exciting new opportunities to advance voting rights and democracy in Virginia. This is a quickly developing opportunity to advance critical democracy reforms in a key state with a brief 60-day session, so there is an urgent need for all of us to get up to speed and make a plan to educate and engage our Virginia members.

We will hear about the issues, strategies for winning, and opportunities to mobilize your grassroots members from DI partners and allies in Virginia including Luis Aguilar, Virginia Director of CASA, Tram Nguyen, Co-Executive Director of the New Virginia Majority, and Jim Sauber, Chief of Staff, NALC.

Earlier this week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced his legislative agenda for voting rights including early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and making Election Day a state holiday. We will also hear about in-state tuition for undocumented students and drivers licenses for all regardless of immigration status.

For more information and to RSVP, email our Office Manager Sherri Davis at sdavis@democracyinitiative.org.

Going forward, the standing DI Grassroots Mobilizing Meetings will be set for once per month rather than bi-weekly and will be supplemented by focused work group meetings. We look forward to a year of productive collaboration.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS

ARIZONA—DI PARTNERS PROTECT ACCURATE VOTING REGISTRATION PRACTICES
On Monday, January 6, DI partners Demos, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters of Arizona, and Mi Familia Vota, alongside other coalition allies, reached a settlement with the Arizona Secretary of State to correct issues with updating voter registration responsible for jeopardizing the vote of as many as 384,000 Arizonans.

The lawsuit alleged that the state violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to provide voter registration services during change-of-address transactions, which resulted in the incorrect registration of voters’ home addresses.

Hector Sanchez Barba, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said:

“Voter rights across the state were jeopardized due to significant voting rights violations and would have continued if local organizations did not raise the alarm. While we are pleased that the Secretary of State and ADOT will comply with an array of actions that will encourage civic participation, we will remain vigilant to ensure that our rights are protected and nothing of this sort happens again.”

Read more here.

BIPARTISAN GROUP OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWYERS DEMAND FEC QUORUM IS MET
A group of 31 attorneys specializing in campaign finance law from across the political spectrum published a letter on Monday, January 6 sent to the White House and Mitch McConnell. The letter demands the administration and Congress act immediately to restore voting quorum on the Federal Election Commission, which cannot perform many of its duties even as the first of the 2020 presidential primaries approach.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to hold the necessary confirmation hearings since the most recent resignation in August 2019, even to appoint the administration’s nominee first selected two years ago.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 12.19.19

Thursday, December 19, 2019
A message from DI Executive Director Wendy Fields:
"Every day, people of color & marginalized communities watch and suffer at the hands of the wealthy and privileged who act above the law. On December 19, 2019, when President Trump was impeached, the US House of Representatives checked his abuses of power. We look now to the Senate, which includes a former judge and 12 former prosecutors, who can also use this moment to stop the President from acting above the law.

Moving beyond impeachment to 2020, we look forward to major opportunities in 2020 to advance democracy reform in states like Virginia."

Happy Holidays from the DI Team.

This will be the last weekly update before the New Year. The update will resume on January 8, 2020. Please contact Jack Flynn at jflynn@democracyinitiative.org, to submit items to be included.

IMPEACHMENT IS AN ELECTION SECURITY ISSUE

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields, on the subject of the two Articles of Impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee, gave the following statement:

"Many hardworking Americans are asking themselves why they should care that Congress issued two articles of impeachment. POTUS has faced no consequences for the way he conducts his Presidential duties and people are skeptical that the Senate will do anything to hold him accountable. At the DI, we think it is pretty simple. Yes, we should care. The Articles of Impeachment being considered by the House are meant to ensure that only American voters decide who wins American elections.

President Trump openly asked a foreign government to interfere in our 2020 elections. The right of all Americans to have a voice in government decisions is the essence of our democracy and it is what we at the Democracy Initiative fight for every day.

Foreign governments can have no say or role in our elections. We witnessed what happened in 2016 and both sides of the aisle agree that our elections must be secure and free of foreign intervention. Foreign interference in U.S. elections diminishes the voice of each and every American. I am not okay with the President of the United States trying to give my power away like that, especially while he is also working making it harder for those most oppressed to cast their vote.

At a time when the basic tenets of our democracy are under daily assault, leaving government in the clutches of powerful corporations and wealthy elites is not an option. We must be vigilant like never before. Join us in keeping an eye on the proceedings, join us in keeping the point simple: this is about securing our votes and election process. That is what every elected official should be voting on, particularly during the Senate trial next year."

On Tuesday, December 17, at 5:30pm local time, over 200,000 Americans at more than 600 events across the country took to the streets to demonstrate their support for impeachment at rallies organized and promoted by DI partners and allies Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Center for Popular Democracy, Common Cause, Daily Kos, Demos, Free Speech for People, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, MoveOn.org, People's Action Institute, PFAW, Public Citizen, SEIU, Sierra Club, and others.

HOUSE PASSES HISTORIC BILL TO RESTORE VRA

The House made historic strides on Friday, December 6 to protect the rights of Black and Brown voters in our democracy by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), a bill that restores key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gutted in a 2013 Supreme Court decision. In the Shelby v. Holder ruling, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional provisions requiring states with a history of racist voter disenfranchisement to pass federal review before changing voting laws. After “preclearance,” one of the most important tools for protecting voters, was no longer required, voter suppression laws such as voter ID proliferated across the country.

Passing the VRAA is a crucial victory in the fight to fully protect all Americans’ ability to participate in our democracy.

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields made the following statement after the House’s passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act:

"Today’s House passage of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), is an important victory on the road to defeating the rise of voter suppression and ensuring that all Americans, especially Black and Brown and other marginalized people, can take their rightful place at the governing table and have a meaningful voice in decision-making that affects their lives.

Despite deliberate, coordinated voter suppression, designed to disenfranchise millions of Americans, and bankrolled by corporate interests and the wealthy few, the American people are demanding democracy and beginning to turn the tide. In 2018, voters in Michigan, Missouri, Maryland and Florida overwhelmingly passed reform packages that make voting secure and accessible; make districts fairer and less beholden to partisan interference; and curb the influence of the wealthy and privileged elite in our political process. That momentum continues in 2019, with House passage of HR 4 today and HR 1 in March along with numerous new state reforms including Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in Maine, expansion of AVR in Colorado; Vote By Mail in Hawaii; voting rights restoration victories in Nevada and New Hampshire.

Together with our 72 partner organizations representing 45 million Americans, we commend the House for taking us another step closer to delivering on the promise of American democracy. And we call on the Senate to stop being a legislative graveyard and get on with doing the people’s business."

We want to acknowledge the hard work of DI partners and allies, whose members’ demands for a fair and just democracy in which all can participate put pressure on our elected officials. The Declaration for American Democracy coalition, in which the DI is a member, collected 26 statements in support of the passage of H.R. 4 in the House from coalition partners and allies. See all statements here.

JANUARY 15 MOBILIZING MEETING: VIRGINIA VOTING & DEMOCRACY AGENDA

Mobilizing Meeting: Virginia - Voting and Democracy Agenda

Join us for the first mobilizing meeting of 2020 on Wednesday, January 15 at 3PM EST to discuss opportunities to support a democracy agenda in Virginia. Significant opportunities, from money-in-politics and redistricting reform to a host of voting reforms including Vote at Home, Election Day Registration, and improved early voting (for an article describing 2020 democracy reform opportunities in Virginia, click here).

We will hear from Tram Nguyen, Co-Executive Director of the New Virginia Majority on some exciting opportunities to mobilize your grassroots members on voting rights and democracy policy agenda during the 60-day session.

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

PARTNER CORNER

TAKE ACTION: DAILY KOS SWAP PETITION CAMPAIGN FOR VOTE BY MAIL
Last week, we joined with DI partner Daily Kos to launch a multi-partner petition calling on state governments to enact Vote-by-Mail to encourage great civic participation in our democracy. The swap petition campaign will focus on expanding vote-by-mail with prepaid postage nationwide by urging governors to act ahead of the 2020 elections. Currently, vote-by-mail states enjoy a 15 percent higher median turnout than polling-place-centric states during the 2018 primary.

During our 2019 DI Annual Meeting, partners coalesced around the need for Vote By Mail as a crucial reform alongside Election Day Registration and Early Voting to improve accessibility, increase civic participation, and secure our elections. We applaud Daily Kos for taking action and prioritizing this demand going forward.

You can find more info on this swap petition and how Daily Kos swap tool works by contacting Daily Kos Digital Campaigner Erin Tulley at erin.tulley@dailykos.com.

AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION: WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKING TRANSIT WORKERS

DI National Field Manager Getachew Kassa and Movement and Training Coordinator Brittny Baxter joined striking workers from our partner Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764 last Friday, December 6.

Negotiations broke down before ATU and the contractor Transdev reached agreement over a new contract, and more than 600 members of ATU 1764 authorized the strike, which comes after Transdev has engaged in unfair labor practices and bad faith bargaining tactics. We stand in solidarity with our partner ATU and with the workers walking the line for a fair and just contract.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE COALITION LEADERS IN THE NEWS: SAYU BHOJWANI
Sayu Bhojwani, President of DI partner New American Leaders, published a new op-ed on Tuesday, December 10 making the case for the Senate to urgently take up voting rights reform. Though the House passed both the landmark For the People Act (H.R. 1) and, more recently, the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) to expand and protect the power of American voters, the Senate under Mitch McConnell has refused to take action.

“This kind of record-breaking turnout could have been achieved years ago if everyone had easy, equitable access to our democracy. But because of hundreds of years of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, Congress is still overwhelmingly pale, stale and male. The result? Immigrants, refugees and other marginalized communities are underrepresented and constantly under attack by the very people who are supposed to represent them. To correct course, we need public officials to show some backbone by tackling our country’s long history of voter suppression and disenfranchisement.”

Read the full piece here.

DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE COALITION LEADERS IN THE NEWS: FRANCES MOORE LAPPÉ
Frances Moore Lappé, author and co-founder of DI partner Small Planet Institute, was recently profiled and interviewed in the New York Times magazine on her life's work and passion for robust, comprehensive democracy reform.

"Democracy stands for a set of three conditions that are necessary to bring forth the best in our nature and keep the worst in check. It means the continuous and wide dispersion of economic and political power; it means transparency; and it means cultivating a culture of mutual accountability. The reason that this system is creating such incredible misery is that our essential needs for power, meaning and connection are not fulfilled by it. The challenge is trying to embody those needs in our lives and work for them in terms of changing the system’s rules and norms. It relates to the idea of finding your inner citizen and participating in changing system laws, not just policy laws."

Read the full piece here.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

BALTIMORE CITY COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY PASSES FAIR ELECTION FUND BILL
On Monday, December 2, the Baltimore City Council passed a bill to establish the Baltimore Fair Election Fund, a public campaign financing system for local candidates, that was overwhelmingly supported by Baltimore voters in the 2018 midterm elections. Councilmember Kristerfer Burnett, who introduced the legislation, said

“We want to make sure that people who run for office have a good shot, and that shot is based on their ability, their message, their vision for Baltimore and not necessarily access to capital.”

We acknowledge and recognize the hard work of DI 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, Maryland PIRG, NAACP, and others over two years to ensure the will of Baltimore voters is made reality. The legislation now heads to the mayor’s desk to be signed into law.

Read more here.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR RE-ENFRANCHISES 140,000 RETURNING CITIZENS
Governor Andy Bashear of Kentucky signed an executive order on Thursday, December 12—two days after taking office—immediately restoring the ability to vote to as many as 140,000 formerly incarcerated Kentuckians who have completed “non-violent” sentences; as recently as 2016, 9% of the population, and more than one in four African Americans, were unable to vote. As one of two remaining states that permanently disenfranchises residents unless pardoned by the governor, Kentucky has taken an important step toward ensuring the voices of all residents are heard. We acknowledge the work of DI partners and allies ACLU, Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP, and others for their leadership in this fight.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 11.27.19

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
This week's DI Weekly Update is shortened for the holiday break.

"At this time of year when we gather with family and friends to practice gratitude, let us also take time to remember that our movement is about creating space at the governing table for those who have been ignored. Those most oppressed lead the best. Wishing all a restful and Happy Thanksgiving that renews our strength for the fights ahead." —Wendy Fields, Democracy Initiative Executive Director

2019 DI ANNUAL MEETING REFLECTIONS AND THE PATH FORWARD

Once again, the DI Team would like to thank our Board, Principals, Discussion Leaders, and all participants for an inspiring, successful 2019 Annual Meeting. We're sharing a reflective comment from Small Planet Institute Co-Founder Frances Moore Lappé that really captures the power of the meeting and the moment:

"'Annual meetings' are often sober affairs, but two weeks ago Democracy Initiative pulled off something very special—an annual gathering that was a rousing opportunity to learn, bond, and to be deeply moved. I first heard of the Democracy Initiative in 2015 from one of its founders, the Sierra Club’s Mike Brune. I was ecstatic, for I had long believed that we could meet today’s huge challenges only as all of us devoted to critical 'issues' also grasp that we can succeed only as we create accountable democracy. Turned out, Mike and other founders of Democracy Initiative were way ahead of me! In founding DI, they—leaders of the democracy, labor, environment, and racial justice movements--were already on it.

So, in a beautiful meeting room in AFL-CIO offices, I felt for the first time the palpable energy embodied in a true 'movement of movements' that I’d longed for--and our nation so desperately needs. In chatting with a Postal Workers Union member next to me and then being awed by Greenpeace activist Jonathan Butler—who’d committed civil disobedience resisting both an anti-democracy law and fossil fuel exports—and also wowed by democracy-champion Senator Jeff Merkley’s brilliant keynote highlighting a range of democracy reforms—and so much more—I left feeling not only more motivated than ever but more powerful.

Thank you, Democracy Initiative, for putting together such a rich feast of learning and sharing." —Frances Moore Lappé

We’ve created a slideshow to showcase some of the wonderful photos taken during the event, which you can view here.

DI board member Gustavo Torres (Executive Director, CASA) with leaders from the Baltimore Fair Elections Coalition, who received a 2019 Democracy Champions Award.

Staff and principals of partner organizations are free to email Jack Flynn at jflynn@democracyinitiative.org to request Annual Meeting materials if they have not already received them.

We also encourage any partners who have yet to sign up for the 2020 work groups to do so by filling out this form. These work groups will be the place where our partner organizations join together to plan and execute strategies to advance our shared work in the coming year. A brief description of each work group is below.

The Civic Participation Work Group will help create organizing center of gravity around current states that have vote at home (VH)/vote by mail (VBM) and no-excuse absentee policies to ensure we educate and get commitments for increased use of the reforms to illustrate the difference they make, thereby making a case for more states converting to no-excuse absentee and full VBM/VH.

The Senate Governance Work Group will create a detailed campaign plan to educate and organize support for Senate governance reform among cross-sector progressive constituencies who have a stake in a functional Senate. The work group will co-create fact sheets and other educational materials for key audiences, including DI partners’ members, presidential candidates, US Senators and Senate candidates, and members of the media; design and host webinars with key experts; and provide sample governance questions for candidate questionnaires.

The Disruption/Mobilization Work Group will create a detailed campaign plan to coordinate 1 or 2 direct action mobilizations focused on common opponents (ex: corporations, wealthy donors). The work group will develop strategic communications and social media that create an opposition frame around opponents who maintain power through money in politics. We will identify key “bad actors” as a focus for 2020 mobilization. The work group will also design and deploy training for direct action, civil disobedience targeting a specific opponent.

Sign up for a work group here.

DI Co-Chairs Karen Hobert Flynn (left; President, Common Cause) and Tefere Gebre (right; Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO)

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NATIVE AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS ARE STILL UNDER ATTACK

As democracy reformers around the country prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we can take some time to reflect on the state of Native American voting rights. Numerous voter suppression laws passed in the last two years, such as the 2018 North Dakota law requiring a valid street address on identification, jeopardize the voting rights of Native Americans. The Native American Voting Rights Act of 2018, introduced a year ago, disappeared into Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard, the U.S. Senate. Indigenous voting rights advocacy organizations such as Four Directions are preparing to mobilize voters in key states with high Native voting populations, such as Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin in 2020. As we fight to ensure every vote counts and is counted, let's commit to standing in solidarity and commit to fighting for the voices of Native Americans in our democracy in the year ahead.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 11.26.19

Tuesday, November 26, 2019
This week's DI Weekly Update is shortened for the holiday break.

"At this time of year when we gather with family and friends to practice gratitude, let us also take time to remember that Indigenous, Black and Brown communities are fighting to be counted in the census while billion dollar corporations reap the rewards of their political influence with a $0 federal tax bill. Wishing all a restful and Happy Thanksgiving that renews our strength for the fights ahead." —Wendy Fields, Democracy Initiative Executive Director

2019 DI ANNUAL MEETING REFLECTIONS AND THE PATH FORWARD

Once again, the DI Team would like to thank our Board, Principals, Discussion Leaders, and all participants for an inspiring, successful 2019 Annual Meeting. We're sharing a reflective comment from Small Planet Institute Co-Founder Frances Moore Lappé that really captures the power of the meeting and the moment:

"'Annual meetings' are often sober affairs, but two weeks ago Democracy Initiative pulled off something very special—an annual gathering that was a rousing opportunity to learn, bond, and to be deeply moved. I first heard of the Democracy Initiative in 2015 from one of its founders, the Sierra Club’s Mike Brune. I was ecstatic, for I had long believed that we could meet today’s huge challenges only as all of us devoted to critical 'issues' also grasp that we can succeed only as we create accountable democracy. Turned out, Mike and other founders of Democracy Initiative were way ahead of me! In founding DI, they—leaders of the democracy, labor, environment, and racial justice movements--were already on it.

So, in a beautiful meeting room in AFL-CIO offices, I felt for the first time the palpable energy embodied in a true 'movement of movements' that I’d longed for--and our nation so desperately needs. In chatting with a Postal Workers Union member next to me and then being awed by Greenpeace activist Jonathan Butler—who’d committed civil disobedience resisting both an anti-democracy law and fossil fuel exports—and also wowed by democracy-champion Senator Jeff Merkley’s brilliant keynote highlighting a range of democracy reforms—and so much more—I left feeling not only more motivated than ever but more powerful.

Thank you, Democracy Initiative, for putting together such a rich feast of learning and sharing." —Frances Moore Lappé

We’ve created a slideshow to showcase some of the wonderful photos taken during the event, which you can view here.

DI board member Gustavo Torres (Executive Director, CASA) with leaders from the Baltimore Fair Elections Coalition, who received a 2019 Democracy Champions Award.

Staff and principals of partner organizations are free to email Jack Flynn at jflynn@democracyinitiative.org to request Annual Meeting materials if they have not already received them.

We also encourage any partners who have yet to sign up for the 2020 work groups to do so by filling out this form. These work groups will be the place where our partner organizations join together to plan and execute strategies to advance our shared work in the coming year. A brief description of each work group is below.

The Civic Participation Work Group will help create organizing center of gravity around current states that have vote at home (VH)/vote by mail (VBM) and no-excuse absentee policies to ensure we educate and get commitments for increased use of the reforms to illustrate the difference they make, thereby making a case for more states converting to no-excuse absentee and full VBM/VH.

The Senate Governance Work Group will create a detailed campaign plan to educate and organize support for Senate governance reform among cross-sector progressive constituencies who have a stake in a functional Senate. The work group will co-create fact sheets and other educational materials for key audiences, including DI partners’ members, presidential candidates, US Senators and Senate candidates, and members of the media; design and host webinars with key experts; and provide sample governance questions for candidate questionnaires.

The Disruption/Mobilization Work Group will create a detailed campaign plan to coordinate 1 or 2 direct action mobilizations focused on common opponents (ex: corporations, wealthy donors). The work group will develop strategic communications and social media that create an opposition frame around opponents who maintain power through money in politics. We will identify key “bad actors” as a focus for 2020 mobilization. The work group will also design and deploy training for direct action, civil disobedience targeting a specific opponent.

Sign up for a work group here.

DI Co-Chairs Karen Hobert Flynn (left; President, Common Cause) and Tefere Gebre (right; Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO)

* * *

NATIVE AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS ARE STILL UNDER ATTACK

As democracy reformers around the country prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we can take some time to reflect on the state of Native American voting rights. Numerous voter suppression laws passed in the last two years, such as the 2018 North Dakota law requiring a valid street address on identification, jeopardize the voting rights of Native Americans. The Native American Voting Rights Act of 2018, introduced a year ago, disappeared into Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard, the U.S. Senate. Indigenous voting rights advocacy organizations such as Four Directions are preparing to mobilize voters in key states with high Native voting populations, such as Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin in 2020. As we fight to ensure every vote counts and is counted, let's commit to standing in solidarity and commit to fighting for the voices of Native Americans in our democracy in the year ahead.

Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 11.22.19

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

2019 ANNUAL MEETING: ORGANIZING FOR DEMOCRACY

Over eighty national and state leaders and activists from 47 organizations came together last week for our 2019 Annual Meeting: Setting the Table for Governing in 2021. We especially appreciate the 38 principals and senior leaders (including the DI Board) who joined us at the luncheon discussion and contributed to shaping the 2020 goals and campaign plan.

The packed room at the AFL-CIO offered many powerful reminders about the importance of organizing our constituencies and staying unified—holding the line in response to the politics of greed and hate coming from the opposition.

DI partners came prepared to plot the course to seizing this historic moment to win a 21st century democracy. This means ramping up our efforts to win reform through legislation and the ballot, focusing on strategic organizing, and committing to mobilizing and disruption, up to and including taking direct action to shift power in order to win transformative change. Many organizations committed to lead on increasing civic participation by creating a center of gravity around reforms like Vote at Home, Same Day Registration, and organizing grassroots demand that the U.S. Senate stops being a cemetery where bills that affect the lives of our constituencies go to die. Long-time democracy leader Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was compelling in sharing his perspective and commitment to Senate rules reform.

In addition, we heard—loud and clear—partners call for ensuring we have a coordinated, disciplined narrative around those corporate and wealthy interests that corrode our political system. We have heard your desire to deepen our efforts to protect the fundamental democratic right to protest and dissent and provide a platform to support Census work through the designated partner hub organizations and DI partners including Arab American Institute, LGBTQ Task Force, and NAACP. The DI team looks forward to continuing the fight for a representative, inclusive, and robust democracy with our coalition partners in the coming year.

A warm thank you from all of us here at the DI to participants in our 8th Annual Meeting:

  • Our speakers and discussion leaders Rodney McKenzie (Demos), Nan Aron (Alliance For Justice) Ashley Dwire (SEIU), Virginia Kase (LWV), Delrico Loyd (UAW), Rob Weissman (Public Citizen), Amber McReynolds (Vote at Home Institute), Mark Dimondstein (APWU), Micah Sims (Common Cause PA), Jim Sauber (NALC), and Larry Cohen (Our Revolution),
  • Our Board, Tefere Gebre (AFL-CIO), and Karen Hobert Flynn (Common Cause), Derrick Johnson (NAACP), Erich Pica (Friends of the Earth), Gustavo Torres (CASA), and,
  • All the attendees who contributed their valuable time and ideas, from DI partners and allies A. Philip Randolph Institute, Advancement Project, AFL-CIO, Alliance for Justice, Alliance for Youth Action, APWU, AAJC, Arab American Institute, Brennan Center, Brooklyn Voters Alliance, Campaign for Courage, CASA, Center for Popular Democracy, Chinese American Planning Council, Clean Water Action, Common Cause, Daily Kos, Declaration for American Democracy, DC Vote, Democracy For All 2021, Demos, Friends of the Earth, GreenLatinos, Greenpeace USA, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters, the LGBT Community Center, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Natural Resource Defense Council, NAACP, NAACP Baltimore, National Action Network, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Education Association, NRDC, Our Revolution, PFAW, Public Citizen, ReThink Media, SEIU, Small Planet Institute, State Innovation Exchange, State Voices, United Auto Workers, United Domestic Workers, United Steelworkers, US PIRG, and VoteRiders.

We could not have had such a successful Annual Meeting without all of you!

We’ve created a slideshow to showcase some of the wonderful photos taken during the event, which you can view here.

Staff and principals of partner organizations are free to email Jack Flynn at jflynn@democracyinitiative.org to request Annual Meeting materials if they have not already received them.

60 OF THE COUNTRY'S RICHEST COMPANIES TAXED $0

On Sunday, November 17, a New York Times article revealed that the company FedEx paid $0 in federal income taxes in 2018. That year, FedEx leadership claimed that it would be investing the $3.2 billion it saved from the tax cuts into pensions, wage increases, and bonuses, with the pensions alone receiving $1.5 billion. On Monday, FedEx’s head of HR announced employees hired after January 1, 2020 will not be eligible for pensions.

FedEx, along with 60 other Fortune 500 companies who earned a combined profit of $79 billion last year, used tax loopholes and the new 2017 tax cuts to avoid paying any federal income taxes, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). If they had paid taxes the new Trump rate of 21%, the taxes collected from these companies would total $16.4 billion. Instead, the government owes them a collective $4.3 billion refund.

It is important to recall that these tax cuts, little more than a corporate wish list, were passed at the behest of wealthy donors and right-wing institutions funded by secret money (who in turn receive generous input and funding from these very same corporations). FedEx alone spent $2.5 million on campaign contributions and roughly $25 million on lobbying in the 2016 cycle. Having now seen the reports from the 2018 fiscal year, we can see clearly that corporations have—more so than ever before—succeeded in writing the very rules from which they benefit immensely. They have Congress working for them, not us.

The benefits of the 2017 tax cuts, deregulation, and other actions on behalf of corporations by this administration will only continue to compound if left unchecked. That’s why the consensus of leaders from across sectors and issues that emerged at our 2019 Annual Meeting around the need for bold, direct action has never been more timely. The way to rewrite the rules in our favor begins with our commitment to disrupting the flow of corporate political money into our elections and government, so that corporations like FedEx cannot pay to write the rules and instead pay their fair share of taxes.

DEMOCRACY IN THE NEWS: STATE UPDATES

NEBRASKA—STATE DMV COMPLIES WITH UNCONSTITUTIONAL REQUEST FOR CITIZENSHIP INFORMATION
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has volunteered to share driver’s license records with the US Census Bureau in an effort to comply with the Trump administration’s efforts to secure citizenship information for the 2020 census. It is the first and only state so far to do so.

The citizenship question was originally proposed as a method of stripping Latinx communities, non citizens, and other immigrant communities of fair political representation and federal funding according to documents obtained by DI partner Common Cause. After federal courts declared Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ directive to add a mandatory citizenship question to the census forms unconstitutional, the Trump administration issued an executive order to try to accomplish the same. Some states, such as Maine, have stated they will not share driver’s license records with the bureau.

DI partners Asian Americans Advancing Justice, alongside Latinx community advocates, have sued the Trump administration to prevent it from collecting citizenship information.

Read more here.

GEORGIA300,000 VOTERS AT RISK FOR PURGE BEFORE MARCH PRIMARIES, AGAIN
DI partner League of Women Voters and other allies have urged Georgia’s Secretary of State to halt plans to purge at least 300,000 voters from the rolls before the March primaries, citing badly flawed methodology.

In the letter drafted by Campaign Legal Center, the groups argued: “Georgia’s policy should be to encourage infrequent voters to participate in our democracy, not further alienate infrequent voters by purging them from the rolls and putting up another obstacle to further participation.”

Nearly 100,000 names identified for removal solely because they have not voted in the last two federal elections are at the greatest risk; in previous election, an overwhelming majority of the 107,000 voters purged for failing to use their vote immediately reregistered in the same counties where they were listed before the purge, demonstrating that the state’s policy for removal is still in desperate need of reform.

Read more here.

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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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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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