Democracy Initiative Weekly Update 06.13.19

Thursday, June 13, 2019
Our highlighted issues, actions, and events in the democracy movement this week—please share widely.



Tuesday, June 25 marks the six-year anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, which infamously gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing states to implement election laws that erected barrier after barrier for Americans trying to vote.

Our allies at the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights have produced a broad toolkit to help partners and allies commemorate Monday, June 24 to Sunday, June 30  by renewing the call to #RestoreTheVOTE.

We're asking our partners to join us in commemorating the 6th Anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision by taking TWO actions:

  1. Tweet and post on social media, acknowledging the moment's growing demand for reform and articulating why your organization supports the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Sample tweets and posts are on page five of the toolkit.
  2. Send an action alert to your members, urging them to take action by calling
    members of Congress (202-224-3121) on Monday, June 24 and tell their legislators that our democracy needs a fully restored Voting Rights Act today. A sample action alert is on page ten of the toolkit.


We’ve excerpted the introduction from this excellent resource to echo the importance of commemorating this decision:

In the aftermath of the June 25, 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision—which gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) – states and localities across the country jumped to enact restrictive voting laws, disenfranchising millions of American voters. For six years, civil rights organizations and their allies have been fighting back against these discriminatory laws. But we need Congress to restore the VRA to its full strength to ensure that all eligible voters have equal access to the ballot and that every vote counts.

The toolkit also contains messaging frameworks, pivots to deal with bad faith lines of argument, advice for organizations planning events, and more.

We've reproduced a few sample tweets below for quick access:

  • It’s been six years since #SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act. Congress must fix this injustice so that we have the tools to effectively combat current racial discrimination in voting. It’s time for lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to #RestoreTheVOTE!
  • Congress must restore the protections against racial discrimination in voting that #SCOTUS destroyed in 2013. Building a government that is representative of ALL its people is critical to our ability to solve some of our country’s most pressing challenges. #RestoreTheVOTE
  • Without a functional democracy in which everyone is included, heard, and represented, we cannot make real progress on other important civil and human rights issues. That's why Congress MUST pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act to #RestoreTheVOTE.


We need to ensure all Americans have the ability to participate in our democracy. That's why we must demand Congress restore the VRA now.

For further information and questions, contact Jordyn Bussey at


UPDATE: The introduction date for the implementation bill of the Baltimore City Fair Election Fund has been moved to Monday, June 24, 2019.

Join us for the kickoff of the Baltimore City Fair Elections implementation bill! The coalition has already won its first victory: the voters of Baltimore City have demanded a program to curb the influence of outside, special interest money in local elections.

Now we must organize to ensure the will of voters is implemented. Help us reach our goal of turning out 60 people for the Monday, June 24 press conference and hearing!

The press conference with Councilman Kristofer Burnett and members of the Baltimore Fair Elections coalition will be happening outside of the Council building at 4:00pm on 100 N. Holliday St. Baltimore, MD 21202. A hearing will follow at 5:00pm.

We're sharing a one-pager and a sample email to assist with engaging your Baltimore City members around the need for a Fair Election Fund and to turn out support at the press conference, courtesy of Baltimore Fair Elections.


Wednesday, June 19, 3PM EST / NOON PST

Join us on the next DI Mobilizing Call on Wednesday, June 19 at 3pm EST.

Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland, will be joining us on next week’s Mobilizing Call. Joanne will discuss the current implementation process of small donor public financing in Baltimore City and provide updates on the press conference introducing the implementation bill happening on June 24.

Now that we are very close to enacting small donor financing in five localities in Maryland, Joanne also will discuss expanding the campaign across the state and offer insight on how the lessons of Maryland can be applied to other states.

For more information, email Getachew Kassa at



At a time when corporate America controls much of the government, we absolutely cannot allow the administration to get away with stealing billions of dollars in funding and crucial representation from black and brown communities. We must stand together with our communities and demand the citizenship question be dropped.

On Thursday, May 30, The New York Times reported that the a GOP strategist had deliberately crafted the citizenship question to underrepresent nonwhite voters and shift power to Republican strongholds. Evidence of this claim arose after his daughter approached DI partner Common Cause with documents from his hard drives.

Thomas B. Hofeller’s greatest project may be his work on the GOP’s gerrymandering strategy—files submitted to the Raleigh courts pertaining to Common Cause v. Rucho indicate that “North Carolina Republicans misled a federal court to prolong the life of their map of state legislative districts, which had been ruled unconstitutional” according to a Times article released June 6.

More importantly, however, is that the North Carolinian partisan is also responsible for the Department of Commerce's recent push to add citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The citizenship question, according to files on the same hard drive, was conceived of as a way to provide future opportunities to solidify gerrymandered districts in favor of his party.

Right now, our partners and allies at the ACLU and Common Cause are fighting to delay the Census decision from the Supreme Court, which is expected by the end of this month, in light of the evidence gathered from Hofeller’s hard drives.

We must be clear in naming the problem: Hofeller and the Trump administration's ploy is designed to strip immigrant, black, and brown communities of millions of dollars and political representation to consolidate their own power. The data collected by the Census Bureau every ten years impacts the federal resources that communities will receive nationwide, determines how our population will be represented in Congress, and defines how new districts are shaped. Nearly $700 billion in federal government resources are at stake. This is an unapologetic power grab, and we must denounce it as such.



On June 9, Ezra Rosenberg, Director of the Voting Rights Project at DI partner Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law spoke with The Real News Network to discuss the newly signed Tennessee law devised to disenfranchise and intimidate black voters.

The newly signed law, which is in direct response to grassroots organizing that registered tens of thousands of African Americans in 2018 to vote, has three main parts that penalize Tennessee organizers and voters:

  1. All individuals hired by an organization to register people to vote must be trained and registered by the state and criminalizes any organizer & organization who does not comply.
  2. Specific statements (not yet specified by TN Officials) must be made when any person speaks publicly about voter registration status and is subject to criminal penalties if the required disclosures are not stated.
  3. One hundred or more incomplete applications (not yet defined by TN Officials) will result in sever civil penalties for the organization submitting them, up to $10,000.

Essentially, Rosenberg states,

“Taken as a whole, this bill—which is now a law—imposes unconstitutional burdens in violation of the 1st Amendment and the 14th amendment on this simple act of helping people register to vote.”

Listen to the full interview here.


The Mueller Report made one thing explicitly clear: there was conclusive evidence of a foreign country tampering with our elections. With the integrity of elections threatened by corporate-owned politicians and foreign countries, the utter negligence toward election security must end now. We demand adequate funding and security for our elections now, to ensure all Americans' voices can be heard in the democratic process.

On Friday, June 7, following the disclosure of a cyber security risk within the North Carolina Election system, the state’s poor election security became apparent yet again.

Chris Vickery, a cyber security investigator, found a publicly available file within Amazon Web Services that consisted of administrative passwords and access directions for North Carolina State Board of Elections workers responsible for operating voting machines. Additional documents containing directions on how to reset, test and clear ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines were also publicly available online, sometimes in the same file as the leaked passwords.

Read more here.




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.

All applications must be submitted by June 14, 2019.

See the full posting here.

DI partners are encouraged to recommend qualified, diverse candidates!

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