Democracy Initiative Update 07.17.20

Friday, July 17, 2020
Our highlighted issues and actions from the democracy movement in this moment of crisis—please share widely.


As COVID-19 surges again, and states continue to struggle getting safe election infrastructure in place—especially expanded Vote by Mail (VBM) options supported by the vast majority of Americans—we learned yesterday that the newly appointed postmaster general is telling postal employees to slow down the US mail. In a statement to the press yesterday, Democracy Initiative Executive Director Wendy Fields called out how dangerous this is and how it could interfere with this year’s election. 34 states require ballots to be received—not just postmarked—by Election Day. We are witnessing an all-out assault on our democracy.

One of the most important elections of our lifetimes is four months away. States are still in dire need of federal funding to expand safe voting options like Vote By Mail with prepaid postage. The USPS, critical infrastructure for democracy, is facing grave revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic. We must act now. Important votes are coming up soon in the Senate. It is time to activate your members in the states of key Senators and light up your social media channels!

In March, Congress allocated $400 million in COVID-19 relief funding to help states ensure safe and equitable voting amid the pandemic—falling far short of the $4 billion estimated cost to virus-proof voting this year. In May, the U.S. House passed the HEROES Act, a relief package that includes $3.6 billion more for election administration and $25 billion for the USPS. The Senate has not passed the HEROES Act, but they are returning from recess July 20 and are expected to begin work on a new funding package. It is absolutely essential that the U.S. Senate follow the House’s action on critical funding for election administration and the USPS.

Recently, some Republican lawmakers are indicating an openness to provide more funding for the election, including Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration—the committee responsible for allocating funding for elections. We are focusing grassroots efforts on these Republicans: Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), David Perdue (R-GA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Susan Collins (R-ME), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC). They need to hear from their constituents!

Here are the key points to make in communications to key Senators:

  • The Senate must approve the House-passed $3.6 billion for expansion of VBM, early voting, and online & same day registration, so that states have enough time to make the necessary changes to expand Vote by Mail and early voting, recruit and train workers, buy equipment, and do outreach to the public about new voting processes.
  • For expanded VBM to work, Congress must also adequately fund the U.S. Postal Service, which has suffered grave revenue losses due to the pandemic. The House-passed HEROES Act includes $25 billion for the USPS. The Senate should follow the House’s lead.

Here’s how your organization can help:

  • Take Action on Social Media: Call for the Senate to provide the necessary funding for our November election, and tag the DI (@unite4democracy on Twitter, @democracyinitiative on FB) and key Senate targets. Check out our COVID-19 Voting Social Media Toolkit for sample tweets and FB posts.
  • Activate Your Members: Ask your members in the key states to contact their Senators at 202-224-3121 and urge them to approve $3.6 billion for election administration and $25 billion for the Post Office to help states ensure safe equitable elections this year. Feel free to cut and paste from this email into your own action alert.

Drop us a line and let us know what actions you are able to take. If you have any questions about this action, please feel free to contact DI National Field Manager, Getachew Kassa at


On Thursday, July 16, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-3 in favor of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Florida voters. The court's decision left in place an appeals court's stay, which was leveled on a trial judge's ruling that Florida's financial restriction on formerly incarcerated voters regaining their rights is unconstitutional. SCOTUS' disappointing ruling is the latest in the long line of court cases arising from Florida lawmakers' decision to override the will of an overwhelming majority of Floridians.

DI Executive Director Wendy Fields gave the following statement:

“With today’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled the clear intent of Florida’s voters, who voted overwhelmingly in 2018 to allow formerly incarcerated people the right to vote.

“More than five million Florida voters are right, and a handful of Supreme Court justices are wrong. Those who have completed their prison terms live and pay taxes in their communities and have every right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

“Florida voters have every right to make their own laws without interference from Washington DC. In a country where Black people make up nearly 40 percent of the prison population, today’s decision is a stunning and unsupportable act of disenfranchisement and voter suppression.”

Read more here.


The Democracy Initiative Education Fund has launched its virtual Democracy Champions training series: Vote by Mail Edition. As we gear up for the final 100 days in this historic and generation-defining electoral cycle, we are moving initiatives to recruit, train, and place volunteers in key roles. If you have affiliates, activists, or members in FL, GA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NM, PA, VA, and WI, we encourage you to sign up to host a training. We have already hosted Train the Trainer cohorts nationally and in North Carolina, thanks to DI partner A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Our standing training dates for the remainder of the cycle are as follows:

Tuesdays: 6:00pm-8:00pm EST
Thursdays: 12:00pm-2:00 pm EST
Saturdays: 10:00am -12:00 pm EST
Sundays: 5:00pm - 7:00 pm EST

We are happy to consider other times if these slots don't work for your members.

We are currently welcoming applications for our Bayard Rustin Democracy Fellowship Program. This year we will be hosting two fellows: A Training and Movement Building Fellow, who will help support the 100 Days training initiative, and a Digital Campaigner, who will support the Vote by Mail campaign’s organizing efforts online. If you know of someone who would be good for this position, please encourage them to apply.

To recommend a fellow, fill out this form.
To sign up to be a fellow, fill out this form.

For questions, connect with Brittny Baxter at


The Universal Voting Working Group, a joint project of the Ash Center of the Harvard Kennedy School and the Brookings Institution co-chaired by former DI Board member Miles Rapoport, is releasing their report "Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting" on Monday, July 20. The report, the culmination of nearly two years of work by a diverse group of 25 scholars, advocates, and election specialists, examines the idea that the United States should consider participation in elections as a requirement of citizenship.

The Brookings-Ash Center launch event will be held on Monday, July 20 at 1:00pm EST, featuring discussion and commentary on the report by members of the Working Group. You can register for the event here.

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