Democracy Initiative Update 07.02.20

Thursday, July 2, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.


For the first time in United States history, a chamber of Congress has voted for DC Statehood. On June 26, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 51 on a 232-180 vote to make Washington, DC the 51st state, with two senators and one representative in Congress. The 700,000 people who call the District home live without equal representation and voice in our democracy, and Friday’s vote is the first step toward righting a 210-year injustice.

Before the vote, Democracy Initiative National Field Manager Getachew Kassa participated in a press conference organized by DI partner and longtime leader in the DC Statehood DC Vote and featuring DI Board member Virginia Kase, CEO of the League of Women Voters and Vanita Gupta, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The DI is proud to stand with DC Vote and the 700,000 District residents who are fighting for representation and self-governance, and we appreciate all DI partners and grassroots advocates who have worked so hard on this fight for so many years. H.R. 51 now goes to the Senate, and we call on McConnell and all Senators to pass this long overdue bill into law.

The DI issued the following statement in support of H.R. 51:

“There’s a gaping hole at the very heart of democracy in the United States. 700,000 residents of our nation’s capital do not have a voting representative in the U.S. House or U.S. Senate. More than 325,000 of these disenfranchised citizens are Black.

"Black Lives Matter – and Black votes also matter. Everyone deserves a seat at the governing table, and the path to racial justice runs directly through Washington DC. It is simply unacceptable that residents of the District have no vote in Congress – especially when Congress controls the city’s laws and its budget.

“The U.S. Capitol, where the House and Senate meet, was built by slaves. The promise of American democracy will continue to ring hollow until their descendants – and all other DC residents – have a right to send their own representatives into those halls, to vote on the laws that affect their lives.

“The member organizations of the Democracy Initiative fight every day to protect the right to vote for everyone. We strongly support HR 51, because statehood is a practical way to end the disenfranchisement of DC residents. No one should be excluded from our democracy based on how they look – or where they live.”


Join us for our next DI mobilizing call scheduled Wednesday, July 8 at 3:00 pm EST. RSVP here.

Our agenda will cover the following:

  1. Centering Racial Justice in Vote By Mail: To protect public health and our democracy amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Black and Brown voters are increasingly encouraged to use vote-by-mail as one of several ways to participate in the upcoming election. DI partner Advancement Project will join us for a presentation on their new VBM messaging guide that provides guidance and tools for organizers and advocates on how to counter vote-by-mail disinformation and provide insights on the potential impact of vote-by-mail on communities of color. The presentation will cover critical points including: how to make VBM work for communities of color, essential policy recommendations, examples of where it is working and which states need improvement, and how to ensure communities of color have the information and tools they need to utilize VBM this year.
  2. State Update: Last week, Kentucky held their Primary Election despite the closure of hundreds of polling locations statewide, including in Jefferson county, which had one available polling place. The NAACP Louisville Branch will join us to provide insightful perspective from the field on lessons learned, how turnout remained high, and the challenges and opportunities moving forward for the November election.
  3. Federal Fight: Stimulus 4: As the Senate prepares to take up the HEROES Act in the round of federal stimulus negotiation, we will share a legislative update and discuss opportunities to ensure the $3.6 billion in funding for elections assistance and support for USPS passed by the House remains part of the larger package.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. RSVP here or email Getachew Kassa at for more information.


The Democracy Initiative is kicking off July with our inaugural Train the Trainer cohort for the Vote By Mail Democracy Champions training, a virtual popular education style training for activists and volunteers who want to gain a deeper understanding of Vote By Mail as a democracy reform tool. Participants will use their lived experiences to gain a deeper understanding of collective power, Vote By Mail advocacy and combatting voter suppression. Participants will develop the relational organizing skills to engage on both the technical and practical uses for Vote by Mail. Our first cohort meets Thursday, July 9 for a Train the Trainer session, where you will learn how to facilitate our virtual popular education Democracy Champions trainings. We have an ambitious goal to train 10,000 activists this year to become VBM Captains, election workers/volunteers, and poll monitors in key states. Our priority states are FL, GA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NM, PA, VA, and WI.

We are working with DI partners to schedule trainings to support the grassroots campaigns that demand safe, secure voting options for all. If your organization wants to host a training, or sign up staff to participate in upcoming trainings, sign up here. For more information, contact Brittny Baxter, DI Training Coordinator at


On Tuesday, June 23, DI partners American Postal Workers Union (APWU) delivered over 2 million signatures to Congress from Americans across the country in support of emergency pandemic relief for the USPS. DI partners AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Jobs with Justice,, NAACP, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), Public Citizen, and Take On Wall Street joined APWU for an hour long broadcast in support of the USPS.

Decades of privatization attempts, economic strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the administration’s opportunism have placed crosshairs on the US Postal Service (USPS) at a time when their essential services are keeping the country afloat. In a recent article from Associated Press, APWU President Mark Dimondstein said the administration is “shamefully trying to use the crisis to carry out an agenda [of privatization, which would] break up the Postal Service and sell it." Commenting on the critical importance of getting COVID relief funding to the USPS and their central role in our elections in the same article, DI Executive Director Wendy Fields said, “what we don’t need is more chaos in the chaos.”

The fact that postal workers are poised to ensure the integrity of the 2020 elections through handling the increasing number of mail-in ballots reflect that Trump’s attacks in recent weeks on the USPS are part of his multi-pronged assault on our democracy. That’s why we must stand with one of the oldest and most trusted US institutions. We encourage our partners to share our Save The Post Office tool with their members, which allows them to send a letter to their Senators calling for them to support the USPS with emergency pandemic relief.

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields spoke last Thursday, June 25 at Network NoVA’s Women’s Summit 2020, joining a powerhouse of women leaders (Karen Boykin Towns, NAACP; Marjorie Velazquez, Community Leader; and Dr. Melvena Wilson, Center for Advocacy and Research on Health Equity; with moderator Krysta Jones, Vote, Run Lead) for a discussion of systemic racism and the path to dismantling it in our own communities. We strongly encourage you to watch and share this powerful conversation. You can watch the full panel here.

Last Wednesday, June 24, DI Executive Director Wendy Fields joined Showing Up for Racial Justice and Puente Human Right Movement to host an 800-person training at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2020 General Assembly to host a training on Organizing Your Congregation to #UUTheVote. The panel spoke to the urgent need to fight for justice in the streets in support of movement demands, and at the ballot box, as well as ways participants can combat voter suppression, protect our elections, and have values-based conversations about racial injustice as a core piece of our electoral organizing. We encourage your organizations to make use of this training. You can view the training here.


The winds of change are blowing. In a powerful demonstration of American’s hunger for real democracy, more than 2.5 million Americans from across the country participated on Saturday, June 20 in the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington. In addition to the event’s massive turnout, more than 42,000 people uploaded selfies and stories to the Poor People’s Campaign’s website and nearly 300,000 people sent letters to their elected officials insisting they implement the policy agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign.

We want to acknowledge DI partners and allies, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, APWU, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, CASA, Common Cause, CPD, CWA, Daily Kos, Demos, Food & Water Watch, Franciscan Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Hip Hop Caucus, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, League of Women Voters, NAACP, NAACP LDF, NEA, National LGBTQ Task Force, People’s Action, SEIU, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Auto Workers, UFCW, United Steelworkers, and others for engaging and turning out your members to this event.

Watch the full event here.



Despite significant polling place closures in the state, Kentucky voters nearly matched the state’s primary turnout record with 28.87% of voters participating on June 23, due in large part to 100,000 early votes and 75% of the 1.1 million votes being cast through mail-in ballots.

The state of Michigan has seen an historic surge in voter registration and absentee ballot requests in the month before their August 4 primaries. According to recent data from the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office, election officials have received more than 1.3 million requests for mail ballots, an increase of 250% since the last presidential cycle. Benson is currently working to send every one of the state’s 7.7. million voters a ballot. Absentee voting in Michigan has increased significantly since voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure supported by the DI and our partners in 2018 that allows no-excuse absentee voting.

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