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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 03.21.19

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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

This week we're introducing the first column of what will be an ongoing series, where we share best practices—reforms at the state and local levels, reforms that work, and reforms that point the way forward for the democracy movement. We're accepting topics & interviews from our partners; contact Getachew Kassa at for pitches.


Recently, we talked with Colorado Deputy Secretary of State and former Common Cause Vice President of State Operations Jenny Flanagan about Colorado’s voting model to learn more about the system, what works well, and what lessons can be lifted for other states.
Colorado has been called “the safest state for voting,” and boasts some of the most reliably high voter turnout of any state. The state’s reputation for strong elections stems from its long history of frequent, robust reform, with early voting starting back in 1996, and no-excuse absentee ballots as far back as 1980. But the current version of Colorado’s voting model really crystallized in 2013 with the passage of the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, which instituted a broad suite of reforms including election-day registration and a bipartisan elections modernization task force to propose election security and access reform.



  • The anticipated date for introduction of the Senate version is March 27th, after the Senate recess.
  • The list of senators cosponsoring the bill continues to grow. Aaron Scherb at Common Cause has shared a link to the current list of supporters.
  • This week is congressional recess, so now is the time to make calls to Senators who have not yet sponsored the Senate bill.
  • TAKE ACTION:  This week and next, together with the DFAD coalition, we are driving calls to the Senate. Stand Up America has set up a coalition number to call the Senate: 888-724-8879.
    • The coalition has also drafted a sample email to encourage calls.
    • Callers will hear a quick recording on the "For the People Act" before being connected to their Senator or the switchboard.


  • A small group is developing a democracy reform state campaigns tracker tool for partners. Tool will go public soon.
  • The Brennan Center released their 2019 Voting Laws Round Up this week. Here is a link to the update.


Congratulations to Brennan Center, Common Cause New Mexico, Working Families New Mexico, and all coalition allies for their work to make New Mexico the 17th state to pass Election Day Registration. NM lawmakers also passed automatic voter registration, national popular vote, expanded the campaign public financing program, and other reforms. The bills now head to the governor's desk, and are expected to be signed.
Congratulations to ACLU, Common Cause Delaware, League of Women Voters of Delaware, and all coalition allies who worked to pass this crucial bill to revitalize democracy.
Congratulations to American Progress and the volunteer citizen leaders, activists, and allies that worked to pass HB 504, an incredible opportunity to make New Hampshire the 20th state calling for the historic 28th Amendment. Now, activists turn to the Senate and are driving calls to NH Senators to support the Senate version of the bill.


The DI is excited to welcome a new Communications Strategist, Christopher Honey. Christopher joins the DI on April 1, most recently working as Communications Director for SEIU Local 500 in Gaithersburg, MD. Christopher is a talented communications professional bringing more than 20 years of experience to the DI, ranging from labor, enviro, and political strategy. During those two decades, he has worked for a number of non-profits and advocacy organizations including Sierra Club in Florida, as the California State Political Director for Progressive Majority, and for Revolution Messaging.
As Communications Strategist, Christopher will be tasked with working to update our overarching democracy messaging frame, manage and maintain our website and social media channels, and most importantly working to support the DI network and our partners’ communication efforts. This critical role includes developing and adapting coalition messaging to connect with our DI partners’ issue priorities, as well as helping to uplift and amplify our partners’ voices in the press and online. We’re excited for Christopher to join the DI Team.
While we welcome in new staff, we also must say goodbye to our current Campaigns Director, Myke Bybee. Over the past year, Myke has worked to organize and manage the coalition. He played a key leadership role in supporting our DI partners and local stakeholders to secure important democracy wins in Michigan, Maryland, Florida, and Missouri. In the past several months, Myke has worked with DI partners to strengthen and ultimately support the historic passage of H.R. 1.
Myke is moving back to the parks and public land space, as Legislative Director at the Trust for Public Land. We’re appreciative of his work and leadership over the past year, and we wish him well on his next adventure at the Trust.


Check out this new, informative 5 minute video that tells the stories of white, Black, and Brown working families who have paid the price for Wall Street buying our democracy in the form of rent hikes, toxic mold, and layoffs.
Spread this video or the shortened version on social media using this toolkit.

Daily Kos is looking for coalition organizations to partner with some of the Actions they're runninghere's the current list:

Feel free to contact Daily Kos with any questions.


The Democracy Initiative, a dynamic network of 71 organizations, representing 45 million members, is seeking a talented grassroots mobilizing intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the campaign team, the Grassroots mobilizing Intern will assist with message development, organizing campaigns, training, and mobilizing democracy issues to our partners. This is a paid internship.

Click here to see the full posting.

The Democracy Initiative is also seeking a talented communications intern to join our team. Working under the supervision of the Communications Strategist, the Communications Intern will assist with message development and implementation, social media engagement, and online mobilizations for our diverse issue partners. This is a paid internship.

Click here to see the full posting.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

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Feature: Colorado Model is the Path Forward For Reform

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

This week we're introducing the first column of what will be an ongoing series, where we share best practices—reforms at the state and local levels, reforms that work, and reforms that point the way forward for the democracy movement. We're accepting topics & interviews from our partners; contact Getachew Kassa at for pitches.

Recently, we talked with Colorado Deputy Secretary of State and former Common Cause Vice President of State Operations Jenny Flanagan about Colorado’s voting model to learn more about the system, what works well, and what lessons can be lifted for other states.

Colorado has been called “the safest state for voting,” and boasts some of the most reliably high voter turnout of any state. The state’s reputation for strong elections stems from its long history of frequent, robust reform, with early voting starting back in 1996, and no-excuse absentee ballots as far back as 1980. But the current version of Colorado’s voting model really crystallized in 2013 with the passage of the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, which instituted a broad suite of reforms including election-day registration and a bipartisan elections modernization task force to propose election security and access reform.

One of the unique programs that came out of this process is Colorado’s mail ballot delivery approach. “We created a model where everyone gets their ballot by mail but they can return it in many different ways, and that’s where the convenience for the voter comes in,” said Flanagan.

The second was the creation of Voter Service and Polling Centers, or “polling centers” as they’re known. “These locations are our polling places that are open during early voting and on Election Day,” said Flanagan, “they can do anything they need to do in these Voter Service and Polling Centers; it’s like going to your county clerk’s office.”

The results of Colorado’s policies speak for themselves. These reforms, along with a wide array of voting reforms including AVR, same day registration, no excuse absentee, and others, have improved Colorado’s turnout and civic engagement dramatically. “In the year 2000, Colorado was nineteenth in the nation in terms of turnout. In 2018, Colorado was second. In the 2018 midterms, the national average turnout stood at roughly 50%. Colorado’s midterm turnout reached 63%,” said Flanagan.

The key, Flanagan claims, is constant, sustainable, and collaborative reform efforts that reflects and reacts to the latest experiences and challenges facing voters. The development of Colorado’s robust model “happened over the course of time, and the combined effort and sustained reform made the difference.” In fact, much of the strength of Colorado’s voting model can be attributed to its attention to voter experience; their design and implementation reflect data collected from Colorado’s communities themselves. During the reform process, leading groups on the ground, such as Flanagan’s former organization Common Cause, made sure to bring local communities, election officials and grassroots groups to the table: “I think it was the relationships, the coming together of the key stakeholders that made it possible. Whomever is engaging the citizenry needs to be at the table because they know the experience of the people they’re trying to mobilize,” said Flanagan.

The collaboration and data collection of the advocacy community primarily occurred through the national Election Protection program. “The Election Protection program, which many states participate in, supports voters and tracks issues that arise during elections. That’s where we understood where long lines were happening, where voters were having problems, having their vote by mail ballots or absentee ballots rejected, whether it was a signature problem; it’s through the work that the civic engagement or voting rights community is doing that we gather data interfacing with voters” said Flanagan. Centering the experiences of Colorado’s communities produced reforms that address the real problems that face voters.

The model also supplemented its dataset with information from the other key stakeholders: election officials. “Election officials are similarly collecting data, and they’re interfacing with voters, and they’re experiencing data collection of their own, in what they perceive voters to be experiencing,” said Flanagan. The combination of these data sets produced a common set of data, Flanagan said, “it’s a basis on which to solve [the] problem.” This basis is crucial to creating meaningful, comprehensive reform. The shared dataset created room for dialogue that produced a model that prioritizes accessibility for Colorado’s voters, and ease of administration by continuing to facilitate accessibility for voters while instituting reforms proven to increase new voter participation.

When asked about the cost to the state of Colorado of implementing these reforms, Flanagan responded that “there are cost to consider, but these are investments we need to make, and as policy makers and election officials, we have to serve our voters. And I think that’s very consistent across the board from the message I hear from election officials who are there to serve voters.”

Fortunately, in most cases, Flanagan said that “what we’ve seen is that the reforms we’re talking about will reduce costs, even if there’s upfront costs that have to be factored in. Electronic poll books, for example, might cost money up front but will reduce your costs down the road—because you’re going to have better information, your voters are going to move through, you’re going to have less provisional ballots, and you’re going to get people in the right place voting on the correct ballot. If we approach things holistically, I think we’ll find that many of these election reforms are saving us money down the road.”

Colorado’s voting model serves as an example to many states, and its continued success sets the benchmark for what’s possible for reform at the state level. “When you’re looking at increasing access to vote by mail, whether that’s through an absentee balloting process or through permanent absentee options, we’ve been doing it for a long time, as has Oregon and Washington, and there are lessons to be learned about how to verify ballots, how to guard against fraud in mail ballot—which people are concerned about. Let’s talk about how we’ve addressed that in a state that’s been doing vote by mail for decades, as more states are trying to move that as an option for voting” said Flanagan. Further, Colorado’s registration system, with modern electronic databases and automated updates, provides concrete examples of election “There are lessons that I think can apply whether or not you adopt the whole model” Flanagan said.

As we fight to establish a 21st century democracy, the Colorado model increasingly appears like the future of elections. Thanks to the constant work of the voting rights community and the grassroots, Colorado has created a model that strengthens our democracy and empowers voters. Colorado has and continues to lead the way on this reform. The biggest takeaway, according to Flanagan, “is that we can create voter-centered elections. It’s been proven that it can be done, and it enables more people to participate. And that’s what we should be in the business of doing, as election administrators. That’s our job: to make elections something that people can trust in.”

For further reading on the impact of the Colorado model's policies, check out Nonprofit Vote's 2018 report. 

Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 03.14.19

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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


Statement from Democracy Initiative Executive Director, Wendy Fields:
The Democracy Initiative is thrilled to welcome Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, to our Board of Directors.
Erich is a nationally recognized environmental and progressive leader, who brings deep expertise in economics, energy, and tax and budget policy. With Erich’s longstanding commitment to connecting racial, economic and environmental justice, the DI board stands to gain another champion for work at the intersections of today’s most pressing issues. What’s more, Erich’s focus on indigenous and grassroots advocacy at Friends of the Earth means he is sure to bring a strong focus on coalition-building to his role with the DI.
Erich’s fellow board members share in our excitement about his appointment. Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune said of the new Board Member: "We are excited to welcome Friends of the Earth US and their President Erich Pica to the board of the Democracy Initiative at such a pivotal moment. Together with our allies, we can and will continue the work to safeguard our democracy and in turn tackle the climate crisis, and we welcome this new energy to the Democracy Initiative."
Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Founding DI partner Greenpeace tells us, “We are thrilled to welcome Erich Pica onto the board of directors. Friends of the Earth, under Erich's leadership, has been a powerful voice for not just the environment, but for democracy and justice. He's a perfect addition to the team.”
We also want to take this opportunity to thank Annie Leonard for her years of service to both the DI and the democracy fights, as she rotates off the board. We will miss her fighting spirit but know that Greenpeace will remain a strong partner in the fights ahead.  


Good afternoon DI partners,

On behalf of the Democracy Initiative, I would like to express our appreciation to our coalition partners for your support and engagement on H.R. 1, For the People Act! You are the game changers that led to this historic democracy reform victory. The passage of H.R. 1 last week in the House of Representatives was a result of the hard work in the states by the grassroots to transform our democracy. We should all celebrate our collective power. Over 40 (& growing) of our coalition partners personally shared with us photos and quotes of DI leaders to show their solidarity. If you don’t see yourself represented, it’s not too late to send us your quote and photo. We’ve attached a collage of our leaders who shared their statements on why the victory matters to their members. To date, the DI principals' statement twitter thread has garnered more than 80,000 impressions!

We are so proud that this is one of the most unified and active engagements from DI partners that we’ve experienced in a while. Our work is not over, time to get out of the Beltway and into the states, let’s keep the momentum as we now pivot to the Senate and the states.

In peace and solidarity,

Wendy Fields
Executive Director
Democracy Initiative

Following the successful House vote, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) announced he would introduce the House-passed bill in the Senate. All this week, we have been working with our partners at the Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) to gather original co-sponsors on that Senate companion bill. As of today, the Udall bill has collected nearly 40 cosponsors, including almost the entire Democratic Caucus. As momentum builds, the lead sponsors have decided to delay introduction until March 27, to give time for additional Senators to sign on.

The short delay gives us an excellent opportunity to help secure those final cosponsor targets.


  • This week and next, we are driving calls to the Senate. Stand Up America has set up a coalition number to call the Senate: 888-724-8879.
    • Feel free to use it! Callers will hear a quick recording on the "For the People Act" before being connected to their Senator or the switchboard.
  • The coalition has also drafted a sample email to encourage calls.  

Additionally, we are continuing our social media efforts to keep the issue in the public eye, and to amplify the important House win leading to potential Senate action.

Our toolkit is available on the DI website. Click here!

Please continue to use these social media toolkits from our partners:


DI Board Member and Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune's latest for Sierra, the national publication of the Sierra Club, is "One Planet, One Vote: protecting our democracy is how we save wild places," a piece that meditates on the always recurring truth that, fundamental to our fight to save our planet and achieve real justice and sustainability, we must build our democracy.
"These attacks on democracy are relevant to the Sierra Club because, of all the tools we rely on to fulfill our mission, the most indispensable is the principle that every citizen can participate in the electoral process. Any assault on our democracy is also an assault on public lands, healthy communities, and a stable climate. If we fail to defend our democracy, then nothing that we hope to protect—and nothing that we've already protected—will be safe."

Read the full piece here.


The Democracy Initiative is pleased to announce that Getachew Kassa, our Senior Campaigner, has been promoted to the position of National Field Manager. Getachew has been at the DI for almost two years as Senior Campaigner, after serving as the NAACP's leader for the DI.
Getachew has built many key relationships both at the national level and in the states, and has the respect of many allies and has a deep passion to ensure that state and local initiatives and our partner organizations' members are an integral part of shaping and making decisions around campaigns.
We look forward to the dedication, passion, and expertise we've come to expect from Getachew continuing as he takes on this new role.


State Voices seeks an experienced, innovative organizer with a proven track record of success managing talented staff, developing and facilitating trainings, leading civic engagement and issues campaigns to serve as the Sr. Director of State Capacity Building (Sr.). The Sr. will manage a dynamic team of three capacity building organizers and one deputy director to ensure the department is supporting 23 state partners to strengthen organizational infrastructure, deepen and amplify leadership, and create a thriving and connected network. The ideal candidate will lead with an organizer’s orientation, build strong relationships with myriad stakeholders, implement innovative ideas and bring good energy into this newly redesigned department. Moreover, the Sr. must have a demonstrated track record of and commitment to leading with racial and gender equity principles and practices. The Sr. is an integral part of the State Voices senior management team and will report to the Managing Director.

Click here to see the full posting.

The Voting & Elections Program Director will manage overall operations of the Voting & Elections Program, working with state and national staff to develop and implement strategic campaigns that advance priority legal, policy and issue agendas on topics including modernization of voter registration and voting models, restoration of voting rights for formerly-incarcerated individuals, voting system integrity, curbing voter suppression and boosting voter participation.

Click here to see the full posting.



The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (LCVEF) works to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities. LCVEF, in collaboration with our state LCVEF partners, advocates for strong environmental protections, organizes and amplifies the voices of communities of color and other key constituencies who are disproportionately impacted by climate change, air pollution, water contamination and other issues, and engages people in the democratic process in order to enact strong environmental laws.

LCVEF is seeking a Voting Rights Program Director who is a strong base builder, coalition builder, and fierce advocate for equitable and accessible democratic processes at every level of government and in every community. The ideal candidate thrives on building and growing programs and is creative, motivated and inspires leadership and collaboration from partners and peers. They should have a penchant for detail, exceeding expectations and a desire to be a team player in a growing, dynamic organization.

Click here to see the full posting.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 3.6.19

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


This Friday, the House of Representatives is expected to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which is the first comprehensive package of democracy reforms to be taken up in Congress, in decades.

We want to acknowledge the hard work of all our partners and allies, including our labor partners and the broader DFAD coalition. We also want to capture the power of this moment for the grass-roots field work that comes next, as we know that this historic moment was because of the culmination of the grassroots democracy reform victories and the momentum that is building across the country to demand transformative democracy change in favor of the people.

Here at the DI, we see this bill as the new floor and not the ceiling. Over the next year, we will take the debate to the streets and ask the grassroots what we need to make this possible and stronger. But this Friday is an opportunity to present a unified front behind democracy reforms that benefit and invigorate all of our organizations' fights.

This toolkit is available on the DI website. Click here!

Here are three easy ways to take action this week and to amplify the win this week:

  • Principal Quote and Picture: We are asking for a quote from your principal and a picture. We will turn the quotes into shareable social media graphics and content.
    1. Please send your principal quotes and picture to Jack Flynn at Here are a couple of examples:
      1. Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause: The For the People Act (H.R. 1) is an important first step to solidify the people’s voice in our democracy. For the first time, this bill brings together pragmatic solutions to strengthen our democracy in one bold, comprehensive package the American people are demanding. One of the best things about the For the People Act is that it is also by the people—the solutions in it modeled on solutions the people have already won locally and proven they work in cities and states coast to coast.
      2. Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace. H.R.1 “For the People Act,” is a bold step toward ending the attacks on voting rights and the influence of big money in our politics. We have ten years to avert a climate catastrophe with ambitious energy policies such as the Green New Deal, including a just transition for workers and communities, that end the era of fossil fuels and put in place renewable energy solutions and H.R.1 helps us get there. It is time to put an end to the corruption and this bill sends a clear message that the voices of the people are strong and ready for a change.
  • Join Congressional leaders for an event on Friday morning at the Capitol steps: In advance of the vote on Friday, we're asking DC based partners to join us and our partners at Common Cause on the steps of the US Capitol building at 9:00am to deliver over 500,000 petition signatures in support of H.R. 1. Click here to RSVP. Non-DC based partners are welcome to amplify the hearing on social media.
  • Show up on social media: Help to amplify the historic victory on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Here is sample content from our partners at Common Cause and ReThink Media.
    1. Common Cause Social Media Toolkit
    2. ReThink Media social media toolkit

We will be driving and tracking social media activity this week and next. Please share your tweets in a direct message to our twitter account (@unite4democracy) and we’ll retweet you. We’re asking all of our partners to send out or retweet at least 3 tweets in support of H.R. 1 on Friday!

If you have any questions contact Getachew at

This moment is a direct result of the grassroots demand and political momentum built over the past several years in the field, culminating in a sweeping series of state-level democracy reform wins this past Fall. This moment is historic. And this victory belongs to every American, every organizer, and every coalition member that fought for it.

This toolkit is available on the DI website. Click here!


Wednesday, March 13, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing call on Wednesday, March 13 at 3pm EST.

Next week we will host a strategy session during our mobilizing meeting for identifying and amplifying key state democracy reform campaigns. We're inviting state partners to provide overviews of ongoing campaigns on the voting rights front, as well as sharing a larger list of current campaigns across the country.

In addition, we expect to debrief on the anticipated vote in the House of Representatives on H.R. 1—the “For the People Act”— and identify next steps to build further momentum in the Senate and in the states.

To submit campaigns or speakers, get more information, and RSVP, email Getachew at

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 2.28.19

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


On February 26, DI partner AFL-CIO issued a statement of support for HR 1, the massive suite of democracy reforms making its way through the House, and now joins the coalition of DI groups who have fought to improve the bill and continue to push for bolder, more comprehensive reform at the state and national level.

Statement in support of HR 1 from Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President:

“For many years, special interests have used their influence to disenfranchise communities of color and take away their voice and their right to be part of our democratic process. H.R. 1 is a major step toward reducing the influence of big money in our democracy and restoring equal access to the ballot box for all voters.”
—Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields issued the following statement in response:

Democrats in the House are expected to bring H.R. 1 to a vote in a week, on ​Thursday, March 7.​ Here are a few ways to engage:

  • Prepare statements and amplify the win on all social media channels. 
  • Send us a quote from your principal in support of H.R. 1 and a photo to use in a collage, to bring more organizations to the table and continue to gain momentum for democracy reform. Email quotes and pictures to Getachew at​.​
  • DI partner Common Cause is still collecting petition signatures for delivery on H.R. 1, demanding that US Representatives and Senators support a democracy that works for the people, not special interests and entrenched politicians. Sign here.


U.S. District Judge Fred Biery ruled to block an effort by Texas' acting Secretary of State David Whitley launched last month to probe suspected non-citizens on the voter rolls. Whitley’s office publicly announced that 98,000 non-citizens were suspected of being on the voter rolls, 58,000 of whom had voted in an election over a 22-year period. But many of our coalition members and watchdog organizations pointed to the flimsy, racist procedure would wrongfully purge voters from the rolls, as it has in many other counties across the country.

We want to recognize the work of DI partners and allies Demos, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of Women Voters Texas, ACLU of Texas, and others for their fight to stop discriminatory voter purging. Read more here.

Congratulations to DI partners and allies AFL-CIO Illinois, Fight for $15, SEIU, and other coalition members for advancing the fight for a livable wage for all workers. On February 19, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a measure to increase the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. American workers need 15 and a Union, and this is only the beginning. Read more here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 2.22.18

Friday, February 22, 2019
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Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely. Have a nice weekend!



Congratulations to DI partners and allies Common Cause Colorado, League of Women Voters CO, National Popular Vote, and others for their success in pushing Colorado to join the National Popular Vote compact. Colorado’s legislature approved a bill this Thursday to join the NPV compact that wants to tie states’ Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular votea measure that would bring our electoral system closer to the democratic ideal of one voter, one vote. Read more here.

Virginia lawmakers have approved a week-long no-excuse absentee voting period to take effect in 2020, with the possibility of its effect being bumped to the 2019 election.

This just goes to show: when people stand together and demand bold democracy reform from the grassroots, we have the power to move elected officials to pass reform that benefits us all. We recognize the work of everyday people and tireless organizers in every victory like this one. Read more here.


The Let NY Vote campaign has achieved major steps toward implementing voting policies that expand access to the ballot, but now our coalition needs to show that the pressure is still on for bold democracy reform.

Here's how you can take action; pass this along to your NY members to help continue to fight for voting reform (courtesy of Let NY vote):


The Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) coalition is hosting events and town halls  across the country during the President's Day Congressional Recess in a week of action beginning Monday, February 25, in support of the For the People Act (HR 1).

For ways your organization can get plugged into work supporting HR 1, check out the resources below, courtesy of DFAD and the The Leadership Conference:

  • Use these tools for your organization's messaging and social media outreach:
  • Attend Town Halls and other events in-state this week. A list of planned events is here. Sample questions on HR 1 to ask at public events can be found here.
  • Push calls into member offices to share your support for HR 1, or visit your senators and representatives at their in-district offices to share your support for HR 1.



Wednesday, February 27, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing call on Wednesday, February 27 at 3pm EST.

Next week we will focus on the growing momentum to expand voting rights for the 6.1 million Americans across the country to with a felony conviction. Since the historic victory of Florida’s Amendment 4 in November, the movement towards ending felony disenfranchisement has gotten stronger, with active bills in many states including California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, Washington.

The voting rights coalitions in these states, led by returning citizens, are the anchor of this movement. Our next mobilizing meeting will feature a couple of these state efforts including Civic Nebraska's Director of Voting Rights John Cartier and NAACP Des Moines President Kameron Middlebrooks to discuss their campaigns to restore the right to vote for returning citizens in Nebraska and Iowa.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 02.15.19

Friday, February 15, 2019
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This week, we are sending out a streamlined version of the Weekly Update. We will return to a regular Update next week. The DI Weekly Update includes highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.

Democracy on the move

Federal Court Dismisses $900 Million Pipeline Company Lawsuit Against Greenpeace

The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota issued a landmark dismissal of all claims against all defendants in the USD $900 million case against Greenpeace and others brought by Energy Transfer.

The decision to dismiss this lawsuit, which alleged Greenpeace engaged in racketeering and defamation, sends a strong message to all companies trying to silence civil society with baseless cases. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson wrote in his order dismissing the case that, “Posting articles written by people with similar beliefs does not create a RICO enterprise,” and that, “Donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise.”

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

“Justice has been served. This is a huge victory not just for Greenpeace but for anyone and everyone who has ever stood up against powerful corporate interests. Today’s decision to dismiss Energy Transfer’s baseless lawsuit against Greenpeace and others sends a clear message to companies trying to muzzle civil society that corporate overreach will not be tolerated. It is also a check on corporate efforts to silence dissent.


The For the People Act is moving! This week, the House of Representatives held two more hearings on the comprehensive package of democracy reforms. Throughout this process the Democracy Initiative has worked to educate our coalition partners, activists, and movement leaders about how democracy reforms impact the kitchen-table issues we all care about. We believe that the legislation and legislative process is being driven by the political demand and recent success in the States. We also believe that those same grassroots leaders need to be at the forefront of our campaign efforts.  

To that end, a number of our DI partner are working to influence the process, improve the bill, and strengthen our democracy in the states and in Washington DC. This week, a number of our partners are testifying in the House Administration Committee. We wanted to highlight two of them

  • Brandon Jessup, Executive Director of Michigan Forward and DI leader, testified in support of H.R. 1, making the connections between Congressional reform efforts and how democracy has impacted him and his Michigan community.  
  • Click here to read Brandon's full testimony:


Let NY Vote!

For years, grassroots activists from all across New York state have fought for meaningful voting reforms. In January, following the historic 2018 midterm elections, the Let NY Vote! Coalition successfully passed the first major voting reforms in New York in more than 100 years!

Drain the Swamp!

Trump just announced he will nominate David Bernhardt, a former high paid oil lobbyist, to run the Department of the Interior. As Secretary, Bernhardt will be responsible for fossil fuel leasing on our public lands and waters.

If confirmed, Bernhardt could use his position to help his Big Oil friends dismantle basic protections like the Endangered Species Act. Instead of draining the swamp, Trump wants to turn our National Parks and wild places over to the swamp monsters. We need your help to fight back!

  • Tell the Senate to reject David Bernhardt!  With the climate under attack, and wealthy fossil fuel interests continuing to deregulate the industry to escape essential environmental protections, we cannot allow an oil lobbyist to run the Department of the Interior! Distribute this petition to your members and tell the administration that the people will not stand for ecocide!

Speak up for Clean Water!

On Valentines Day, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposed rule to slash federal clean water safeguards. Trump’s Dirty Water Rule is a radical reinterpretation of the Clean Water Act that ignores science and broad support from the public. It would eliminate protections for rain-dependent streams, which feed drinking water sources for millions of people. And it would put at risk more than half of our nation’s wetlands, which filter pollution and protect our communities from flooding.

Click here to learn more, and to tell the Trump administration to to defend clean water:

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 2.8.19

Friday, February 8, 2019
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Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.



For years, grassroots activists from all across New York state have fought for meaningful voting reforms. In January, following the historic 2018 midterm elections, the Let NY Vote! Coalition successfully passed the first major voting reforms in New York in more than 100 years!

But there is still much to do, and the grassroots is taking the reins again, planning actions and events around the state in support of voting reform in New York. Here are several quick ways for your organizations and members to take action:

  • Write a Valentine's Day Card to Governor Cuomo: Governor Cuomo has until next Thursday, February 14 to amend his budget to include needed funding for Early Voting to succeed in New York. Write Governor Cuomo a card today and let him know that you expect him to fund Early Voting in his budget Amendments. Click here.
  • Promote the Feb. 12 Mobilization and Lobby Day in Albany: Lift up the action on social media and send an email to your NY lists to invite them to join! You can find promotional materials in this google doc.
  • Join the Fair Elections Petition list swap: Share this petition with your members to support Fair Elections in NY (click here for sample email). Contact Laura Friedenbach ( to participate in the list swap.
  • Participate in upcoming events with Let NY Vote: Join many of the DI's partners and coalition allies for events and mobilizations, including Common Cause NY, Jamaica NAACP, League of Women Voters Buffalo, and more! Event schedule can be found here.


The people of Maryland overwhelmingly voted Yes on Question 2 last November, one of the campaigns the DI and our coalition allies supported to institute Election Day Registration statewide. Now, the Maryland Legislature has introduced the EDR legislation, and is holding their first hearing February 12. We need show our collective power to ensure EDR gets implemented. The Everyone Votes MD coalition is putting together testimony for the hearing, including testimony specific to your organization. Allies are also welcome to join Common Cause Maryland for verbal testimony at the hearing.

Also, the Maryland Senate's Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on February 14 about an Article V Convention, one of the gravest threats to our democracy today. Common Cause Maryland is heading up testimony against the Article V Convention, and is looking for groups to provide additional testimony and support to kill this resolution.

For more information on either or both hearings, and to get plugged in, email Damon at


On Monday, February 4, Civic Nebraska kicked off its new campaign to restore the ability to vote for returning citizens. Civic Nebraska is looking for social media amplification to get the message out, even from out-of-state groups. It's clear that demand for ending felon disenfranchisement is growing at the state level across the country!

Here's a link to their Facebook post, YouTube video, and blog post. Share widely!


DI Board Co-Chair and Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn testified on Thursday before the House Committee for Oversight and Reform on the Ethics components of HR 1, the House Democrat's legislative package of democracy reforms.

During her testimony, Hobert Flynn laid out the case for bold and comprehensive ethics reform, and identified that the demand for these reforms is coming from the grassroots:

"Americans have not been waiting for Washington to fix what ails them in our democracy. We've been working at the state and local level, with many other groups, to pass significant pro-democracy reforms. This is the second consecutive election cycle where voters have passed 95% of the democracy reforms on the ballot. In 2018, voters in 20 red, blue, and purple states and localities have passed democracy reforms with strong support from Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters." 

A short clip of an exchange between Hobert Flynn and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez went viral on twitter, demonstrating the clear and growing support for ethics reform among everyday Americans tired of corporate interests hijacking our democracy. A longer version of the clip can be found below. The entire hearing can be viewed here.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 2.01.19

Friday, February 1, 2019
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Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.


The DI wants to recognize our partners in labor (AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, APWU, CWA, SEIU, and others), AFGE and NFFE, many of our coalition partners, and the air traffic controllers staging sickouts, for leading the fight to end the Trump shutdown and re-open the federal government. Many people outside the labor movement predicted that the Janus decision would be the death knell for organized labor, but workers once again have proven that there is strength in solidarity; in fact, union membership and organizing wins have been on the rise since the Janus decision.

Over the past month, we have been proud to stand in solidarity with government workers, their families, and our allies. Over the holidays and through the month of December, DI partners rallied and marched in the freezing cold, sent emails, made phone calls, and put their own bodies on the line to risk arrest. Ultimately, President Trump caved, providing a three-week reprieve, but no long term guarantees. We may have won in the near term, but we recognize this fight is far from over.

More than one million federal contract workers lost a month of paychecks during the longest government shutdown in history and now, they should receive the back pay they deserve. This legislation would ensure back pay is granted up to a maximum of $1,400 a week. Click here to call your representatives and urge them to support back pay for our federal contract workers!


This week, we're sharing 3 toolkits, courtesy of the Defending Rights & Dissent Network, to use in defense of our rights to protest and demonstraterights crucial to our work as champions for democracy.

  • Anti-Protest Bills and the Targeting of Social Movements deals with anti-protest bills broadly. It will help activists faced with everything from bills designed to create new penalties for blocking traffic to bills removing liability from drivers who hit protesters.
  • Anti-Boycott Bills and the Targeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement is a resource to defend the right to boycott. Anti-boycott bills single out supporters of Palestinian rights who boycott Israel to be uniquely penalized. The right to boycott is a fundamental First Amendment right and these bills are flagrantly unconstitutional.
  • Critical Infrastructure Bills and the Targeting of Anti-Pipeline Protests will help activists who are fighting bills that create heightened penalties for protest at or near pipelines. They are pushed by industry groups and the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council and are clearly designed to silence the vibrant social movements opposing pipelines that have have gained strength across the country.
    • Speaking of Anti-Pipeline protests, our partner Sierra Club needs you to take action against the Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline, to be built through 212 bodies of water by the company behind the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history. We cannot allow fossil fuel interests to criminalize protests defending our environment, water rights, and Indigenous lands!


We want to recognize Common Cause New Mexico and other coalition allies for their tireless work advocating for democracy reform. Last Friday, January 22, New Mexico lawmakers advanced two major voting rights bills on illustrating a growing nationwide trend as lawmakers are prioritizing the issue as the people fight for fair, just, and secure elections following the 2018 midterms.

State lawmakers took a critical first step on Friday by moving HB 57, legislation that would completely abolish felony disenfranchisement, out of a key committee. The committee also passed an automatic voter registration bill. Eligible voters in New Mexico can already register when they apply for a driver’s license or another form of state identification. But the bill would make this process automatic by creating an “opt-out” process for those who don’t want to register to vote, instead of an “opt-in” process.

Read more here.

On Tuesday, January 29, the House Judiciary Committee held the first of many hearings on H.R. 1, a package of legislation that contains many necessary, robust reforms designed to strengthen our democracy. Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of DI partner organization NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, testified in support of the bill.

You can watch the entirety of the hearing, here. The next hearing is scheduled for February 6.

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Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 1.25.19

Thursday, January 24, 2019
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Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.


Updates from D.C.—Congress moves forward on HR 1, “For the People Act.”
One of the first items for the new congress was the introduction of HR 1, the “For the People Act,” a bold, comprehensive package of democracy reforms touching on voting rights, gerrymandering, money in politics, and ethics. The legislation enjoys strong support from the House Democrats, with 220+ co-sponsors as of this week.

Looking ahead, the Congress is expected to begin hearings on the bill, beginning the week of January 28. The DI is working closely with our partners at the Declaration for American Democracy (DFAD) Coalition to organize events in-district in three weeks at Member offices and town halls during the the President's Day recess on February 18.

Here are a few ways that DI partners can plug in to the HR 1 effort:

  1. Join the Declaration for American Democracy coalition; email Pedro Morillas to be added to the lists:
  2. Share Common Cause’s petition in support of HR 1.
    1. Email Izzy Bronstein at Common Cause if you want to participate in their list swap through the end of this month that’s gathered 160k signatures so far.
  3. Recruit hosts for in-district actions for President’s Day Recess (Week of Feb 18).
    1. With more than a month to plan our next week of in-district action—we hope more groups can get on board with both recruiting hosts and attendees. Email or to get plugged in.
    2. Host sign-up form and map (updated), process remains the same.
    3. If you recruited event hosts for the January week of action, please make sure to notify Nathan Williams at Town Hall Project right away if events need to come down from the map or be updated.



Wednesday, January 30, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing call on Wednesday, January 30 at 3pm EST to hear from Dan Furmansky, Consultant at the Piper Fund, and Sue Udry, Executive Director of Defending Rights & Dissent, who is leading the organization’s advocacy and public education efforts to protect and strengthen civil society and challenge government abuse of First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Dan and Sue will provide a overview of the anti-protest laws introduced across the country and the network of organizations helping organize the national field in response to the challenge.


DI partners AFL-CIO, AFT, Center for Popular Democracy, CWA, and SEIU joined AFGE, NFFE, and other labor allies for a silent protest, lasting 33 minutes: one minute for each day the government has been shut down and federal workers have gone without their due pay.

After the rally, union leaders led a handful of federal employees to McConnell’s office in another Senate building. Workers and journalists crowded outside the doorway as labor leaders demanded a meeting. They were told McConnell wasn’t available and that they would have to make an appointment. The group, which included the president of the Union Veterans Council and the National Federation of Federal Employees, refused to leave. They sat down in the hallway instead.

“Folks are hurting!” they shouted. “End the shutdown!”

Capitol Police officers then arrested them, lined them up outside the building, and put them in the back of a van. Read the full story here.


Every day that goes by without our Members of Congress hearing our outrage is another day we allow our federal workers to be political pawns in a game of Washington tug-of war. We must act now and demand McConnell and the Senate reopen the government.


  • Bird dogging Senators: every day until this shutdown is over, AFGE, their supporters, and partners are going to be "bird-dogging" Senators. Volunteers will stand outside of Senate offices in shifts. As people go in and out of these offices, volunteers will tell them to tell that Senator to end the shutdown immediately. Anytime a Senator comes out, volunteers will follow them, film them on their phone, and push them to promise to end the shutdown. This is a non-arrestable action; volunteers will receive a brief training before joining the action. For more information and to sign up, email Julie Tippens at
  • Sign DI partner NAACP's petition to end the government shutdown today. Petition here.

di board members on the move


DI Board Member and NAACP President Derrick Johnson's latest column on the Trump administration's strategic creation of a white judiciary:

"Fifty-three years ago, at King’s urging, the first African American woman was appointed to the federal bench. Since then, one might have expected to see remarkable progress to increase representation of all communities on the nation’s courts. But judicial diversity is endangered under the Trump presidency. The administration must do better, much better, to preserve the judicial system’s fairness and integrity. As King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Read the full column here.

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DI Board Co-Chair and Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn's latest column on a few of the priorities for voting reform facing the country as we head into 2019 and 2020:

"I saw this firsthand during my time at the Election Protection command center in Washington, D.C., where nonpartisan attorneys and trained volunteers took tens of thousands of calls from citizens across the country. Many of the problems reported were things we could—and did—predict were going to happen. Indeed, most of the problems voters reported can be solved with simple, commonsense reforms."

Read the full column here.

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DI Board Member and CWA President Chris Shelton on the need for the bold package of democracy reforms proposed in HR 1, the "For the People Act":
"Corporate CEOs and the wealthiest 1% have spent decades rigging the political process to reduce the power of working people. By making it harder for working people to vote, stacking the courts with activist judges who have allowed our elections to be flooded with massive amounts of unreported corporate money, and weakening ethics rules, they have advanced an agenda that has devastated communities across America. The 'For the People Act' is a bold step toward bringing balance to our democracy."

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