Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 05.16.19

Thursday, May 16, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.


DI partner NAACP recently released an incredible action toolkit, entitled Our Communities, Our Power: Advancing Resistance and Resilience in Climate Change Adaptation. The entire toolkit provides countless resources for organizers and activists, but it also functions as an extended demonstration of understanding the urgent problems our country faces across issue silos.

We wanted to specifically draw on Module 7: Democracy and Governance, and hold it up as a powerful example of democracy reform understood as a bridging device for political change, unifying a diverse and driven coalition to seek political change through the reform movement.

To quote the module’s introduction at length:

Government should be accountable to the people, transparent in practice, inclusive of all people, participatory and accessible, representative of the groups it serves, and responsive to the needs of those people. As it is, many of the institutions that govern our communities—even those that intended to be democratic—do not embody these characteristics. Instead of serving the people they help a small, privileged segment of people and big corporations get richer.

An important part of building community resilience is reforming our systems of governance to reflect a vision of deep democracy that is truly by the people and for the people. Deep democracy is the practice of democracy that recognizes the importance of all voices in a group or society, especially those on the margins. It is about fostering a strong sense of community, inclusion, power, and participation so that people have meaningful control over the decisions that affect their daily lives, including planning for climate change.

We can’t address the root causes of climate change with a “democracy” that’s working for the companies that have caused climate change— like fossil fuel companies. We need government that is truly representative and responsive, where corporate money and power do not reign.

What do we mean by all of this?

  • Everybody in the community should be able to actively contribute to the democratic processes, like voting and providing input on how money is spent.
  • Resources are made available to everyone, not just people with money or other forms of power.
  • People of all ages are seen as community members with value.
  • Election results reflect the consensus among all people in a community, not the people with the most money In this module we outline several strategies to deepen democracy and improve methods of governance in our communities.”

In this module we outline several strategies to deepen democracy and improve methods of governance in our communities.”

You can access the full toolkit here.

If you're interested in joining the DI's Enviro Working Group, contact Getachew Kassa at


Two weeks ago, the diverse, young and powerful Sunrise Movement was awarded the Henry Wallace Award by Wallace Global Fund for their decisive advocacy of an environmentally sustainable future for all people, and their role in placing the urgent climate crisis into the center of national discourse.

We're sharing two videos from this event to acknowledge the importance of this moment in our country, where corrosive money wielded by corporate interests continues to win deregulation after deregulation from this administration at the expense of our planet and our future.

The Sunrise Movement reminds us that we cannot fight for a sustainable, healthy environment without a responsive, reflective democracy accountable to the people, not wealthy lobbies. Rev. Barber's timely address reaffirms the history and power of direct action, to win voting rights for all Americans, and to use our power to remake our democracy in the image of a moral, just society.

We also want to highlight that the Sunrise Movement's video and Rev. Barber's speech serve as powerful articulations of the issues that confront all Americans, and the urgency for all of us to rally behind a bold, diverse and unified movement to fight the corporate hijacking of our government and build a sustainable, equitable and democratic future.

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Click on the thumbnail to watch Rev. Barber's speech.



On November 6, 2018, Michigan voters made it clear they want an impartial and transparent redistricting process and fair and secure elections when they voted overwhelmingly to pass both Proposal 2 and Proposal 3.

Now, politicians are trying to undermine the voters by slashing the Secretary of State’s elections budget and decreasing funding for the Commission.

This unprecedented move will jeopardize the security of future elections and the success of Michigan’s new fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process.

We cannot let politicians continue to go against the will of the people they are supposed to represent. We must stand together and fight back so that our votes count and our voices are heard.

We need your Michigan members to call their state Representative and Senator, before the vote likely to take place any day now. Our allies at Voters Not Politicians have put together a short script to help your members demand accountability from their legislators.

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Congratulations to DI partners Demos, Mi Familia Vota, SEIU, UnidosUS, and coalition allies for their recent victory on behalf of Spanish speaking voters in Florida. Last Friday, May 10, a federal district judge in Florida issued an order granting a further preliminary injunction in the Demos’ ongoing VRA Section 4(e) litigation. Demos, along with LatinoJustice, SEIU, and Altshuler Berzon LLP brought the case to secure compliance with Section 4(e)'s non-discrimination requirement with respect to Spanish-speaking voters educated in Puerto Rico.

By the March 2020 presidential primary, official ballots must be available in Spanish, assistive voting machines for the disabled community must function in Spanish as well as English, all other election related materials, including voter guides, absentee and provisional ballot materials, voter registration materials, and websites, must be available in Spanish, the counties must provide a hotline where voters can get assistance during early voting and on election day, and counties must make best efforts to recruit bilingual poll-workers.

Read more here.

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DI partners Illinois Common Cause and League of Women Voters Illinois are hosting a field hearing for H.R. 1 and campaign finance reform on May 19 at 4 p.m. at Cantigny Park’s Visitor Center, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton.

The program will begin with a town hall discussion led by U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, on H.R. 1, the For the People Act. The legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and is designed to modernize the election system, reform redistricting and restore the Voting Rights Act. Former State Sen. Daniel Biss will moderate the town hall.

There will also be a panel discussing about how the national campaign finance reform movement connects with local and state policy in Illinois. Panel members will include Elizabeth Lindquist, the League of Women Voters of Illinois Issues Specialist for Campaign Finance Reform, and Illinois state Senators Laura Ellman, D-Naperville, and Suzy Glowiak, D-Western Springs.

Please register here and encourage your members to attend!

Read more about the field hearing here.


Wednesday, May 22, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing call on Wednesday, May 22 at 3pm EST.

Michael Podhorzer, former political director for the AFL-CIO and current Adviser to AFL-CIO President Trumka, will be joining us and will present key findings from recent polling, focusing on issues related to democracy reforms. He will take us beyond to summaries and share insights into what strategies and narratives work when it comes to making the case for political reform.

This is an excellent opportunity for communications team members, who may not regularly participate in the Mobilizing Meetings, to join us either in person at the DI offices or via video conference.

For more information, email Christopher Honey at



You’re invited to the DI new staff orientation!

Do you have a new staff on your team? Does their work intersect with democracy? To get familiar with the Democracy Initiative and how your organization can best work together, we’re excited to extend an invitation for anyone on your team to join our monthly new staff orientation call, a 30-45 minute call (video conference) on the last Thursday of every month. The new staff orientation is open to the point of contacts, communications or any staff that engages our program or campaign efforts around democracy.

The next new staff orientation call is Thursday May, 23.  

For additional information on the new staff orientation contact Getachew Kassa at



The Democracy Initiative, a unique, broad coalition of 72 environmental, civil rights, workers’ rights and other progressive organizations committed to strengthening U.S. democracy, is seeking an energetic, creative and entrepreneurial Deputy Director to provide day-to-day management of our organization while assisting the Executive Director in the development and execution of a ground strategy, policy analysis and fundraising efforts.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

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DI partner Democracy Matters—a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to giving students in pro-democracy issues—is offering paid part-time internships during the academic year from September through May.

See the full posting here.

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