Press Release

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.

Democracy Initiative: Know the Rules and Make a Plan to Vote in 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative: Know the Rules and
Make a
Plan to Vote in 2020
If it wasn't important, Donald Trump wouldn't
be trying so hard to stop us

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative.

“Donald Trump has no authority to delay the elections that will take place in thousands of jurisdictions across the United States in November. Republicans and Democrats alike have denounced his nonsensical comments, which are intended to sow division, suppress votes, stoke racism and draw attention away from his miserable failure to keep Americans safe.

“There is no justification—none—for statements that voting by mail is unreliable or subject to fraud. Millions of Americans participate in universal vote-by-mail elections in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, with high voter turnout and reliable results.

“Voting by mail succeeds thanks to hard work and cooperation between election officials and the U.S. Postal Service. Instead of denigrating the people who make our democracy function, the president and Congress must focus on full funding for state and local elections and the USPS, so we can count every vote.

“Despite unprecedented obstacles, voters are turning out in high numbers all over the country this year. 2020 can and will be a historic election. Whether you choose to vote by mail or in person, everyone needs to know the rules, make a plan, and take your friends, families and co-workers with you.

“Voting must be pretty important. Otherwise, Donald Trump and his cronies wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop us from doing it.”

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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.

Senate COVID Relief Bill Missing Crucial $3.6 Billion for State and Local Elections

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Senate COVID Relief Bill Missing Crucial $3.6 Billion
for State and Local Elections:

Business Leaders Must Join Call for Safe, Accessible Voting

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative. As reported in Politico, election funding is a key issue during negotiations for a new COVID-19 relief bill.

“The HEALS Act introduced this week in the U.S. Senate does nothing to heal our ailing democracy or calm the economic anxiety of the American people. Once again, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put corporations and wealthy interests before people and protecting our democracy.

“To ensure a safe, reliable, secure and accessible election in November, we must address a desperately underfunded state and local election system and the deliberate slowdown of the U.S. Postal Service.

“The U.S. House took action in May by allocating $3.6 billion to pay for election costs and $25 billion for our public Postal Service, which provides crucial infrastructure for all forms of voting.

“This funding must be included in final COVID-19 relief legislation. Overcrowded, unsafe voting places in November are not acceptable. Disenfranchising an untold number of voters—especially in Black and brown communities—unacceptable. This outcome will not be accidental, but the result of a strategic effort at voter suppression.

“The member organizations of the Democracy Initiative are calling on corporate leaders to use their substantial influence in Congress to win these vital investments in our democracy. They certainly know how to wield influence to protect their bottom line, like the costly, unnecessary protections against business liability for COVID-related lawsuits that were inserted in the Senate bill.

“Our challenge to corporate America: John Lewis was willing to endure savage beatings and risk his life to defend the right to vote. Are you willing to dial your phone?”

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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 on Donald Trump’s Attempt to Exclude Immigrants from the U.S. Census

Friday, July 24, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Democracy Initiative on Donald Trump’s Attempt to Exclude Immigrants from the U.S. Census

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative.

“Donald Trump doesn’t know how to count. We do.

“Immigrants count, regardless of their immigration status. Black people count. Brown people count. Everyone from historically underserved communities counts.

“The U.S. Census is required to count everyone; there is no provision for excluding people the current president doesn’t like. We stand with our allies in the civil rights community, and we will not allow this administration to disrupt the Census.”

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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.

John Lewis, an American Hero

Monday, July 20, 2020

For Immediate Release:

John Lewis, an American Hero

The following statement is from Wendy Fields, Executive Director of the Democracy Initiative.

“The member organizations of the Democracy Initiative join our nation and the entire world in mourning the death of Rep. John Lewis, an American hero who risked his life to make our country a better place.

“At this unique moment, Rep. Lewis’ own words ring truer than ever: ‘My dear friends,” he said in North Carolina in 2012, ‘Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.’

“Sadly, we have not seen the end of discriminatory practices which aim to take power away from voters, especially in Black and brown communities. To honor John Lewis and his exemplary life, the U.S. Senate must immediately pass H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has been languishing in Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard for more than 200 days.

“And, in November, we all have a responsibility to take action and make sure that every vote countsand every vote is counted.”

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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.