Press Release

Democracy Initiative Announces Jennifer Lamson as Interim Executive Director; National Search Underway to Replace Outgoing ED Wendy Fields

Monday, November 30, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Democracy Initiative Announces Jennifer Lamson
as Interim Executive Director; National Search Underway to
Replace Outgoing ED Wendy Fields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table. 

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Democracy Wins in 2020 with Record Turnout; Nation Must Confront Urgent Business including COVID, Economic Relief, Climate Change, Inequality and Racial Justice

Sunday, November 8, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Democracy Wins in 2020 with Record Turnout;
Nation Must Confront Urgent Business including COVID, Economic Relief,
Climate Change, Inequality and Racial Justice

Washington DC, November 8 – The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative:

“On behalf of 75 labor, civil rights and environmental organizations representing more than 45 million people, the Democracy Initiative congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory in the 2020 election. 

“With new leadership, our nation must confront urgent business: A comprehensive public health response to COVID-19. Economic relief for workers and small businesses. Bold action to confront climate change, address economic inequality and lift up racial justice.   

“The real winners this year are the American people and our democracy. This is the largest, most inclusive election in U.S. history, with nearly 160 million ballots cast and two-thirds of eligible voters participating. 

“This historic turnout is no accident. It’s the result of more than 20 years of organizing by grass roots activists who have worked tirelessly to expand access to the ballot through same day registration, early voting, vote by mail, restoration of voting rights to the formerly incarcerated and many other voter-friendly reforms. 

“Voters turned out in record numbers his year despite a pandemic. We exercised our right to vote despite attacks on our public postal service, a lack of resources for state and local elections and other systematic efforts by the powerful and the privileged to suppress voting, especially in Black and Brown communities. They failed. Democracy succeeded.

“State and local election administrators are the unsung heroes of this year’s election. Under intense scrutiny—and in many cases having to face down illegal threats and intimidationthese dedicated public servants, supported by tens of thousands of poll workers and volunteers delivered reliable and secure election results. They deserve our gratitude, and more support and resources for future elections."

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

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Unlikely Allies Unite for Election Integrity: Labor, Civil Rights and Environmental Coalition Welcome Calls from Business Leaders to Count All Votes

Friday, October 30, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Unlikely Allies Unite for Election Integrity:
Labor, Civil Rights and Environmental Coalition Welcomes Calls
from Business Leaders to Count All Votes

Washington DC – Leaders of the Democracy Initiative, representing a combined 45 million member of labor, environmental and civil rights organizations, today welcomed recent statements by America’s top business leaders upholding the integrity of U.S. elections.

In separate and complementary statements, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Alliance and the Leadership Now Project have appealed for patience and civility as state and local officials take the time to count all votes during a unique election season. Tens of millions of Americans are voting by mail or voting early this year. In addition, voters, election workers and volunteers are taking steps to ensure safe in-person voting during a deadly pandemic.

“After years of hard work to expand ballot access, Americans are voting in record numbers this year, taking advantage of multiple voting options,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. “No matter where we come from or what we look like, there is broad agreement across civil society—including business, labor, environmental and civil rights organizations. Every vote counts and every vote must be counted.”

As detailed in the “Roadblocks and Remedies” report from the Democracy Initiative, the grass roots democracy movement has successfully won voting reforms in dozens of states. As a result, 45 states (and the District of Columbia) now have no-excuse vote-by-mail, and 43 states (and DC) now have early voting.

“It’s not every day I find myself in agreement with the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” said Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and co-chair of the Democracy Initiative board of directors. “Counting every vote is important to everyone in our democracy.”

“We welcome the voices of business leaders calling for patience and civility throughout the process of casting and counting votes in all jurisdictions,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause and co-chair of the Democracy Initiative Board of Directors. “Time and again, the United States has met the challenge of self-governance, holding elections during times of war, the Great Depression and other crises. Together, we will show that even during a pandemic, we will uphold our commitment to free and fair elections.”

A broad commitment across civil society to count every vote is especially important, said Fields, in light of recent contradictory rulings from the Supreme Court, which limit the time available to count votes in Wisconsin, butso far—have allowed extending counting periods in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

“Elections are decided by voters, not politicians,” said Fields. “All of us, from all sectors of civil society, must raise our voices in the coming days to make it clear that partisan interference with vote-counting is unacceptable.”

 

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

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Rushed, Sham Process to Seat New Justice Undermines Supreme Court and Damages Democracy

Friday, October 23, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Rushed, Sham Process to Seat New Justice
Undermines Supreme Court and Damages Democracy

Washington DC, October 23, 2020: The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative:

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

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

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

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

“The American people deserve better.”

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

 

Report: U.S Has Tools for Pandemic Election After Democracy Movement Wins Voting Options in 40+ States; Roadblocks Remain for 2020 Elections

Thursday, October 8, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Report: U.S. Has Tools for Pandemic Election After
Democracy Movement Wins Voting Options in 40+ States;
Roadblocks Remain for 2020 Elections

WASHINGTON – U.S. voters have the tools for successful voting during a pandemic election in 2020, says “Roadblocks and Remedies – the State of Voting 2020,” a new report from the Democracy Initiative (DI).

“The democracy movement has been fighting for – and winning – voting reforms for decades,” said DI Executive Director Wendy Fields. “The result is expanded access to the ballot box, so we are more prepared for voting during a pandemic. We’re fighting back against racism and voter suppression, for safe in-person voting on Election Day, and to create a voting system that works for how we live and work in the 21st century.”

Building on earlier victories, grass-roots advocates won major reforms in 21 states in 2018 and 2019, and several states have implemented new rules to increase voting options this year. The state of voting in 2020 now includes:

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

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

“We know the more choices a voter has, the easier it is for them to exercise the choice that works best for them,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “I am working hard to ensure even in the midst of a pandemic voters have that full range of options for how to cast their ballot, and can be assured no matter how they choose to do so it will be safe, accessible and secure.”

Obstacles to successful voting still remain, says Nsé Ufot of The New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education organization that is currently contacting 100,000 voters of color every week. “In Georgia, we’re dealing with glitchy new voting machines, a suspect match program that disqualifies eligible voters and a flawed resource allocation that will lead to long lines for voters in Black neighborhoods,” said Ufot. “But here is what I know, Georgians are excited about voting and preparing to overcome these challenges. From pandemic to protests to the polls to power is more than just a slogan; it’s our reality.”

Voting reforms are still needed in Mississippi, said Dr. Corey Wiggins, executive director of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP. Mississippi is the only remaining state in the United States where in-person voting on Election Day is the only option available to all voters.

“Voting during daylight hours on one Tuesday in November is outdated, unfair – and unhealthy during a pandemic,” said Wiggins. “Democracy is about a participatory process and the long-held policies and practices of limiting access to ballot should end now.”

New options for voting – including vote-by-mail and Early Voting – require extra efforts at voter education said Scott Holiday, chief of staff of SEIU Health Care Michigan. The union represents health care workers at hospitals, nursing home and other frontline occupations.

“What happens at the ballot box makes a huge difference in the issues that affect our daily lives – affordable health care, the right to organize, safety on the job,” said Holiday. “If you’re a working person, you can’t afford not to vote. This year, that means know the rules, make a plan, and vote early.”

The DI “Roadblocks and Remedies” report identifies ten major roadblocks to successful voting, including:

  1. You are not registered to vote, or your registration is not current.
  2. You applied for a mail ballot, but it did not arrive.
  3. You don’t want to vote in person on Election Day this year, but you can’t find information about where to vote early or where to drop off a vote-by-mail ballot.
  4. Your ballot arrives late to your election office and is not counted.
  5. Your ballot envelope is not signed, not submitted correctly or not witnessed in states requiring a witness, so your vote is not counted.
  6. You are at your polling place for in-person voting on Election Day, but told you are not on the voting list.
  7. Early voting and mail ballots are allowed but your state does not allow processing or counting of ballots until Election Day, resulting in delays.
  8. Voter suppression: Ballots delayed, uncounted by intentional slowdown of the US mail, closed polling places, purges of voter rolls, or restrictive voter ID laws.
  9. Voter suppression in the courts: Ballots delayed or disqualified by court rulings.
  10. Disinformation or confusion about election results before all votes are counted. With millions of voters exercising their right to Early Voting or vote-by-mail, it is likely that results will not be available on Election Day or even the morning after. Getting it right is more important than getting it fast.

The Democracy Initiative has identified remedies for these obstacles to voting, centered on national campaign by democracy advocates to educate voters to Know the Rules, Make a Plan and Vote Early.

Roadblocks and Remedies also identifies resources to assist voters, including:

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Advisory: Can I Vote? How to Vote? When to Vote?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

For immediate release October 6, 2020
Contact: Roger Kerson, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org 734.645.0535

Advisory: Thursday October 8, 2:00 PM ET

CAN I VOTE? HOW TO VOTE? WHEN TO VOTE?
New “Roadblocks and Remedies” Report from
Democracy Initiative shows progress and offers SOLUTIONS
to remaining hazards on the road to Election Day

WASHINGTON – The 2020 election presents U.S. voters with unprecedented challenges. Voting this year isn’t as simple as going to a nearby church, school or civic building on the first Tuesday in November. With Early Voting and vote-by-mail now underway, voters are asking: “How do I Vote?” along with when to vote; where to vote; and will my vote count?

Today, Thursday Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. ET, the Democracy Initiative will release, “Roadblocks and Remedies – The State of Voting 2020.” This timely and comprehensive new report will show the progress made by democracy advocates in expanding access to the ballot in 2020 and identifies solutions to ten remaining obstacles to voting and ballot access in all 50 states.

Who: Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative
         Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State
         Nse Ufot, The New Georgia Project
         Dr. Corey Wiggins, President, Mississippi State Conference NAACP
         Scott Holiday, SEIU Health Care Michigan

What: Zoom media briefing on “Roadblocks and Remedies: The State of Voting 2020”

When: Today, Thursday, October 8, 2 pm ET

Where: To receive call info RSVP to rkerson@democracyinitiative.org, 734.645.0535

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will join the call to discuss her efforts to implement of the 2018 “Promote the Vote” ballot initiative, which allows no-excuse vote-by-mail and Early Voting for all Michigan voters.

“The real story of this election is that a growing democracy movement has steadily expanded ballot access and we have the tools – in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis – to respond to a pandemic election,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. “But not everyone is aware of new rules, new deadlines and potential hazards that remain on the road to Election Day.”  

“Democracy advocates are undertaking a massive voter education effort,” added Fields. “We’re fighting back against a supersized effort at voter suppression, based on racism, fake news and phony claims about ‘election fraud.’”

The DI report will detail how and where a majority of U.S. voters have access to vote-by-mail and Early Voting, with multiple options available in nearly every state.

By Election Day 2020, only one state – Mississippi – will have just one voting option – in person voting on Election Day – for all voters.

Roadblocks and Remedies” identifies remedies to 10 common roadblocks to successful voting, including voter suppression tactics, delayed ballots, potential challenges posed by the slowdown of the US mail, closed polling places, purges of voter rolls, restrictive voter ID laws, and ballot drop boxes that have been decommissioned. The report provides solutions to assist voters in successful voting in 2020

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Supreme Court Vacancy Must Wait Until 2021

Saturday, September 19, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Supreme Court Vacancy Must
Wait Until 2021

WASHINGTON DC: “In our democracy, the people have a seat at the governing table,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. "And we say NO, the vacancy on the Supreme Court can only be filled after—not before—voters decide who will serve as our next president.

"Ramming through a Supreme Court nominee before this historic election while simultaneously working to undermine the legitimacy of the process by sabotaging the Post Office, advancing false fraud narratives, and orchestrating mass voter suppression is one more line of attack in President Trump’s assault on democracy, especially considering that—like Bush v Gore in 2000—key questions could end up in the Supreme Court.

"Once again Trump, along with Mitch McConnell and their enablers, show the country who they are and what they stand for—usurping our power and protecting the interests of their wealthy supporters. It is an affront to all of us who believe in the basic principles Ruth Bader Ginsberg stood up for time and time again: equal opportunity, inclusive democracy and justice for all. These fundamental American values are worth fighting for and they are in grave jeopardy if Trump and McConnell have their way with this Supreme Court seat.

"Leaders of the Democracy Initiative, representing a broad coalition of labor, civil rights and environmental organizations, know that the stakes are high for the kitchen table concerns of our collective 45 million members: healthcare, civil rights, reproductive rights, clean air and water, and fair pay and working conditions.

"Never has the case been stronger for far-reaching reform to protect and expand our democracy so we can truly have a government of, by and for the people—not the wealthy, privileged few.

"We will fight to block this nomination process until after Inauguration Day 2021. And then we will fight fiercely for reforms that will restore our democracy to the people beginning with voting rights, blunting the influence of big money in our political system and restoring basic governing rules in the US Senate including fixing the filibuster.

"To honor the life and work of Justice Ginsburg, members and constituents of DI affiliates and partners will join a vigil on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court at 8:00 pm tonight, Saturday September 19."

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

Democracy Initiative re: Today’s Statement from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Operational Changes at U.S. Postal Service

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Democracy Initiative re: Today's
Statement from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on
Operational Changes at U.S. Postal Service

This statement is from Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative.

"We need to hear immediately from President Trump and Postmaster General DeJoy: Be specific: What service cuts are you suspending? What equipment will be restored to service, and in which locations? What is the plan to ensure that the US Postal Service fully embraces the historic demand to vote by mail and ensure that every vote is counted?

"We expect to hear and see that plan, and nothing less, when the postmaster general testifies before Congress on Friday, August 20th."

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

A Brazen Crime Committed in Broad Daylight

Thursday, August 13, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, roger.kerson@gmail.com
 

"A Brazen Crime Committed in Broad Daylight"
Democracy Initiative Says GOP Must Denounce Trump's
Threat to Delay U.S. Mail During 2020 Election

This statement is from Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative.

“Donald Trump’s threat to delay the U.S. mail during the 2020 elections is a brazen crime, committed in broad daylight.

“The U.S. Postal Service is not the president’s personal piggy bank. It is not an arm of his re-election committee. The prompt delivery of U.S. mail to connect our entire nation is a sacred public trust, upheld for hundreds of years by presidents and public officials.

“The Republican leaders who immediately denounced President Trump’s nonsensical scheme to delay the November election must now denounce his scheme to delay the U.S. mail.

“The member groups of the Democracy Initiative—labor, environmental and civil rights organizations—comprise 45 million people who demand the right to vote safely and have our votes counted. To prevent a stolen election, we are mobilizing with allies and partners to carry out voter education, including vote by mail training and empower citizen volunteers in all 50 states. And it would be a national disgrace if members of the U.S. military serving abroad—who always vote by mail—were excluded from this historic election.

“We’ve seen huge voter turnout during the 2020 primary season and will see it again in November. Elected officials must meet this demand for democracy, not attempt to defeat it through voter suppression.

“During this pandemic, postal workers have literally kept millions of Americans alive, delivering food, medicine and other critical supplies. Postal workers are ready, as always, to process and promptly deliver election mail, the very lifeblood of our democracy. Donald Trump, who is a politician running for re-election, must not be allowed to stand in their way.”

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.

On Anniversary of Voting Rights Act, Let’s Respond to Today’s Marchers for Social Justice with Real Change, not Rubber Bullets

Thursday, August 6, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative: On Anniversary of Voting Rights Act,
Let’s Respond to Today’s Marchers for Social Justice with
Real Change, not Rubber Bullets

WASHINGTON, DC – “The fight to defend and expand our democracy is just as urgent today as it was 55 years ago,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. The coalition of 75 civil rights, environmental and labor organizations, representing a combined 45 million members, is joining allies and partners today to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

“In 1965, Congress moved only after courageous activists—including the late John Lewis—were brutally attacked when they marched for the right to vote,” said Fields. “Activists are showing courage again today, marching to protest structural and strategic racism, police brutality and the steady erosion of our democratic rights.”

“Instead of responding with unmarked federal troops, tear gas and rubber bullets, it’s time for our elected officials to ensure every vote counts and every vote is counted.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court gutted key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, cowardly politicians who are afraid of public accountability began systematic efforts to suppress voting rights. According to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, more than 1,600 polling places—almost all in Black and brown communities—were closed between 2012 and 2018.

And in states like Florida—where a 64% supermajority of voters approved a referendum to restore voting rights to 1.4 million former inmates—politicians trampled democracy, overruling the electorate by imposing harsh fees and bureaucratic obstacles to voting.

“In a democracy, voters have the right to choose politicians, not the other way around,” said Fields. “Sadly, what we’re seeing now is the supersizing of voter suppression. Not just Black and brown voters, but the entire country is being targeted, with attacks against our public Postal Service and the right to vote by mail during a pandemic.”

“President Obama was precisely on point at John Lewis’ funeral,” said Fields. “We need to restore the Voting Rights Act—and go even further with automatic registration, more polling places, expanded early voting and vote-by-mail, and making Election Day a national holiday. The right to vote is no luxury—it’s a necessity.”

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.