Press Release

Democracy Initiative Endorsing Organizations Celebrate Passage of Voting Rights Restoration in Maryland

Organizations including the NAACP, AFL-CIO, SEIU, and others sent letters to House and Senate leadership, and asked their members to contact elected officials to overturn Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Washington, DC – Today, the Maryland state Senate successfully overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2015 veto of legislation (SB340 and HB 980) restoring voting rights to more than 40,000 Marylanders with significant majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate. Under the new law, Marylanders with felony convictions will be allowed to vote upon their release.   

Democracy Initiative organizations were heavily engaged in this campaign and are thrilled by the final result. The Democracy Initiative is working state by state and voter by voter to ensure that all Americans have an equal voice in the process, while our elected leaders are accountable to the people and the public interest. NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks sent a letter to House Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller thanking them for their persistent leadership and urging them to keep their delegations united. Building grassroots support, the AFL-CIO organized hundreds of calls connecting their supportive Maryland members with their local state delegates and Senators. Additionally, a letter sent by the Democracy Initiative also thanked Speaker Busch and President Miller for their hard work on this important effort.

“Throughout the country, an estimated 5.8 million American citizens are prevented from participating in the voting process,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks. “Nationally, 1 out of every 13 voting-eligible African-Americans has been stripped of their voting rights. I applaud the courage of the Maryland legislators who voted to restore voting rights to the more than 63,000 people disenfranchised in Maryland due to previous convictions, of which 40,000 are African-American.   We firmly believe in second chances and that citizens who have completed their sentences be allowed to exercise the constitutional right to vote.”

“Our elected officials heard the voice of working people across the state of Maryland. A strong voice that said justice and rehabilitation demands voting rights restoration! As we continue to build stronger communities we must make it possible for all people to have a voice,” said Fred Mason, MD/DC AFL-CIO President. “Formerly incarcerated individuals deserve the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and participate fully in their communities. I proudly stand in support of this decision and the Democracy we are intentionally building.”

“Democracy is on the march in Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly’s vote to override Governor Hogan’s veto and restore the right to vote for formally incarcerated citizens comes at a critical time for our democracy,” said Emma Greenman, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy at the Center for Popular Democracy. “The time has come to lift up the voices of those in Maryland and across the country who have been locked out of our democracy by unjust laws. Today in Maryland because of the advocacy of a diverse coalition of organizations with formally incarcerated citizens leading the way, more than 40,000 Marylanders have regained their fundamental right to vote and their voice in our democracy.”

Restoring voting rights to previously incarcerated individuals who have served their debt to society is critical to a functioning democracy, while punitive measures serve to disenfranchise and isolate ex-offenders who are rejoining their families and communities. As some state legislatures around the country shamefully roll back the fundamental right to vote, we are encouraged to see that the Maryland General Assembly is working to expand voting rights for all of its citizens.

The campaign, led by the local Maryland coalition Communities United and supported nationally by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Democracy Initiative, was successful in uniting grassroots and grasstops leaders around this important democracy issue, committed to building a democracy of, by, and for the people.

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New Report Explores How Attacks on Unions, Voting Rights, & Campaign Finance Laws Part of Concerted, Anti-Democratic Effort

“Democracy at a Crossroads: How the One Percent Is Silencing Our Voices” Traces How Everyday Americans’ Voices are Being Silenced
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Washington, DC –new report released today from the Democracy Initiative Education Fund, Democracy at a Crossroads: How the One Percent Is Silencing Our Voices, examines how the attacks on unions and the right to organize, assaults on the right to vote, and the dismantling of campaign finance laws are not isolated incidents. Instead, these events are inextricably and directly linked as parts of a systematic effort to shift power from the majority of Americans to a tiny minority of the very rich and the most powerful corporate interests.

The report, written with support from Every Voice Center and the Communications Workers of America (CWA), examines how everyday Americans’ voices in the political arena are being silenced through unprecedented attacks on three pillars of our democracy: 

  • Restricting voting rights. Between 2008 and 2015, at least 22 states have imposed carefully targeted voter photo ID laws that disproportionately affect working Americans, communities of color, seniors, and young people. States have cut back on early voting, election-day registration, and other reforms that would increase turnout. These efforts are concentrated in communities with diverse electorates.
     
  • Targeting assaults on campaign finance laws at the state and federal levels. In the past four decades, campaign finance laws have come under assault at the state and federal levels, and especially in the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts. Opponents of campaign finance regulation have slowly dismantled meaningful contribution limits, eliminated many restrictions on moneyed special interest campaign spending, reduced disclosure of sources, and weakened enforcement of remaining laws on the books.
     
  • Mounting attacks on unions and the power of workers in state legislatures, Congress, and the Supreme Court. Unions are the collective voice of working Americans. They help to level the field when workers negotiate with powerful employers; reduce economic inequality; raise wages for workers; and ensure adequate health care, paid sick leave, and retirement programs for all Americans. Recently, however, state legislatures have passed laws severely compromising workers’ ability to organize and to bargain collectively, Congress has been hostile to pro-worker legislation and has made federal enforcement of labor laws more difficult. At the same time, the Roberts Court has ruled consistently on the side of big business. 

These attacks on American values are the result of an organized effort to shift political power away from ordinary citizens to a small, wealthy elite. This elite group is using vast resources to influence policy makers, the media, and the public to protect its position. The same group has taken aim at the foundations of our democratic tradition, undermining principles of equal representation and civic participation that sustain our nation. Attacks are taking place in state legislatures, in the U.S. Congress and federal agencies, and in the Supreme Court.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to have their voices heard as attacks on our democracy have continued to erode their ability to participate fully and freely in the democratic process," said Tova Wang, Director of Democracy Programs at CWA. "This report explores how attacks on voting rights, campaign finance laws, and unions are taking place at every level of power -- state legislatures, congress, federal agencies and the Supreme Court -- to shift power away from average Americans. Using this knowledge, advocates and activists will be able to understand what is at stake and fight back to build a democracy that is of, by, and for the people."

“A sustained, multi-faced nationwide attack on voting rights, money-in-politics laws, and collective bargaining has silenced the voices of millions of Americans while giving a megaphone to a handful of billionaires and the country’s wealthiest special interests,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Every Voice Center. "This report shows, in exhaustive detail, where these attacks have happened and, importantly, what people can do to fight back and create a democracy that works for all of us."

Despite the challenges of the past few years, a growing pro-democracy movement is pushing back. Polls show the majority of Americans favor stronger campaign finance laws and restoring the Voting Rights Act. Most also oppose weakening peoples’ voices in the workplace. Across the country citizens have fought to block restrictive labor and voting bills, to expand access to the ballot box, and to pass laws making small campaign donations more important than big money. The report concludes by outlining policies and examples of how to place power back in the hands of the American people – which is where it belongs in a democracy. 

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The Democracy Initiative Education Fund (DIEF) is a national, nonpartisan, research and education organization committed to building a vibrant democracy where everyone can participate fully in the democratic process, every voter has an equal voice, and policymakers are accountable to the people and the public interest. DIEF’s core activities center on research related to democratic engagement and public education on important issues to preserve and improve our democracy.  

Every Voice Center is a national nonpartisan organization that fights to raise the voices of everyday people in our democracy through changing our campaign finance laws and through holding elected officials accountable. Learn more at everyvoicecenter.org

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) represents 700,000 workers in telecommunications, media, airlines, higher education, health care, public service and manufacturing.

Democracy Initiative Adopts Bold Action Plan for 2016

DI member organizations are taking on the linked consequences of attacks on voting rights and the power of big money in politics
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Washington, DC – Last Wednesday, December 9th, 45 endorsing organizations of the Democracy Initiative (DI) adopted a four-part strategic action plan for 2016, calling for joint action in states; a major grassroots mobilization; a national education, communications, and outreach strategy; and continued efforts to strengthen the growing DI network. Collectively, we strive to build a 21st century democracy where the voice of every American is heard and counted with a government that is of, by, and for the people.

“Together we can build a democracy where our dreams are imaginable and not blocked by a system with abysmally low voter participation and outrageously high spending that’s considered by many to be ‘business as usual,’” said Democracy Initiative Chair Larry Cohen. “We must fight back, but changing it will need all of us working together.”

The action plan for 2016 will build on victories that already have been achieved in communities and states, and will continue focusing on issues such as automatic voter registration, support for small donor matching programs, and voting rights restoration for previously incarcerated people, among others. Endorsing organizations adopted a plan to engage in at least six states and support for other local and state reform efforts. Pro-voter initiatives will go on offense, fighting to give more people a voice in their democracy. Popular education for potentially hundreds of thousands of people will prepare activists to participate in a national mobilization as well as state campaigns. 

This spring, DI organizations will organize a mass mobilization to overcome the public cynicism that little can be done about the corporate stranglehold on decisions affecting the lives of Americans. This plan joins the demands for voting rights with money-in-politics reform, bringing together historically separate communities and reform proposals. Member organizations are coordinating their campaigns at the highest levels, to take on the fight to ensure Americans are voting and that their vote makes a difference.

These efforts will be bolstered by a comprehensive education, communications, and outreach strategy that will unite democracy issues with the challenges we collectively face on climate, workers’ rights, and civil rights. Strengthening and growing the Democracy Initiative network will be vital to this effort and we will be working closely with our organizations to educate, engage and mobilize their collective memberships and resources.

For more information and a list of endorsing organizations, please visit www.democracyinitiative.org.

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Maine Voters Pass Accountable Elections Ballot Measure

Democracy Initiative Organizations and Allies Issue Statements Celebrating Victory for Democracy
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Washington, DC – Yesterday, Mainers voted overwhelmingly to take back control of their elections. Citizen activists across the state joined together in a victory for democracy, passing with more than 55% of the vote the Question 1 ballot measure that restores clean and accountable elections while limiting the power of wealthy special interests. Democracy Initiative organizations, such as Every Voice, CWA, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Common Cause, LGBTQ Task Force, SEIU, Maine Education Association, Maine People’s Action, and others worked closely in concert with the state campaign to organize and turn out voters in a powerful display of collaboration on behalf of democracy.

Question 1 restored the 1996 Maine Clean Elections Act which originally created a robust public funding system for candidates running for statewide office. At its high point in the 2006 and 2008 elections, 81% of legislative candidates opted into this system, creating one of the most blue-collar legislatures in the country. However, in 2011, the Supreme Court weakened the law, and in 2012, the U.S. District Court of Maine struck down the matching provision and Governor LePage signed a law officially eliminating them.

Mainers have seen enough and taken back control of their elections. In addition to the matching funds, the newly-passed measure increases financial penalties for election law violations and increases transparency requirements.

Continue reading for statements of support from Democracy Initiative Endorsers and Allies:

From Larry Cohen, Democracy Initiative Chair:

“I am proud that the Democracy Initiative member groups stepped up together and that we were able to mobilize so many of our members to work for clean elections in Maine. Their efforts were instrumental in helping Mainers build a democracy that is of, by, and for the people. Congratulations particularly to Common Cause, Sierra Club, CWA, Every Voice, US PIRG, Friends of the Earth, National LGBTQ Task Force, Maine People’s Action, SEIU, Maine Education Association, and Public Citizen for making this DI priority a huge success.”

From Andrew Bossie, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director:

“Today Mainers sent a message loud and clear. We want transparency. We want a government accountable to everyday people. And, we want a strong public financing Clean Election law that puts voters in control of our democracy – not wealthy special interests and high paid lobbyists. With tonight’s victory – that’s exactly what we will get. This is a victory for democracy. A victory for the people, of the people, and by the people. Now it’s time for the legislature and the state to move forward with implementation.”

From Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3):

In strengthening its clean election system, Maine is building a real and viable way to reduce the influence of wealthy and well-connected donors on our democracy. At the federal level, we're looking to Maine as an example of how we can return to a government of, by and for the people.”

From Chris Shelton, Communications Workers of America President:

“Across the country, voters took a stand for accountability, fairness and voter access in our political process.

“Members of the Communications Workers of America, a partner of the 59-organization Democracy Initiative, are committed to restoring government ‘of, by and for the people,’ not one bought and paid for by ultra-wealthy special interests.

“In Maine, voters approved Question 1, strengthening the state’s landmark Clean Elections system and small-dollar public financing of campaigns and making candidates more accountable to the voters, by requiring that outside groups disclose their top three donors on all political ads. In Maine, members of CWA Local 1400 joined Mainers for Accountable Elections and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections in building a grassroots campaign that publicized the issue and got people out to vote.”

From Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:

“This is a victory not only for Mainers, but for every person that wants a government that’s of, by, and for the people, and not big polluters. Maine voters set the bar for the rest of the country and declared that we must take back our elections from big-money campaign donors that are polluting our democracy and polluting our air and water.”

From Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director:

“Mainers made history once again by strengthening our state’s pioneering clean elections law. Thousands of Sierra Club Maine supporters voted to reign in the corrupting influence of big money on our democracy. Cleaner elections mean that our public officials will be more likely to represent the voters’ interests like protecting public health, and our environment and climate.”

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:

“As is their custom, Mainers are leading the way for the nation. In 1996, they adopted the first statewide system for public financing of elections. Their strong vote today for accountable elections further underscores their determination to make our democracy work for everyone; it reflects the sentiments of millions of Americans who are determined to rein in the power of big money and refocus our politics on issues important to citizens.  

“In approving Question 1, Maine has shifted the discussion about money in politics away from the problems caused by the Citizens United decision to a focus on how and when states will solve them. Mainers have determined that those who break the election laws will be held accountable, that future Maine voters will know who is spending money to influence votes, and that future candidates will be able to run and win without relying on big money donors.”

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“To believe in democracy and its ability to act on behalf of all Americans, people must have faith that their candidates are representing their interests and not those of major donors or organized allies. 

“Maine's Accountable Elections Referendum, strongly supported by the Democracy Initiative and its endorsers, ensures that voters know the source of major campaign activity just before an election, and expands the opportunity for candidates with representative support to use public campaign funding to seek higher office in the state. Elections done openly, transparently and with participation of every person help create integrity and representation for all areas of society, and create a system that considers the disparate impact of major policy decisions."

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President:

“We congratulate our Maine AFL-CIO and all their community partners in Maine for standing up for democracy, and taking a big step to get money out of politics.”

From Rachel Rye Butler, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaigner:

“Yesterday's election results are a victory for those working to put our democracy back in the hands of the people. Across the country, from Maine to Seattle, people are ready and taking action to ensure that every voice counts, not just those who can afford to buy elections. Voters are rejecting corporate control and standing up for a government that is truly of, by and for the people.”

From David Donnelly, Every Voice President & CEO:

“Maine voters went to the polls and sent a clear message that the time has come for bold solutions to raise the voices of everyday people in politics. With Washington, DC mired in gridlock and a presidential race focused on who can befriend the most billionaires, voters are taking matters into their own hands. States and cities across the nation will work to replicate this success.”

From Dan Smith, US PIRG Democracy Campaign Director:

“Americans across the political spectrum want action to stop the flood of big money in our elections, and this Tuesday, voters took matters into their own hands. The clean election measure that passed in Maine makes regular constituents a top priority in our elections, and that’s a major win for voters. Today’s victory sends a message to cities and states across the country: when local voters stand up to big-money politics, they can make a powerful difference.”

From Jonathan Fox, Friends of the Earth Senior Democracy Campaigner:

“Friends of the Earth has been working on the ground in Maine with Every Voice and Mainers for Accountable Elections, in support of the Yes on Question 1 campaign. This grassroots, bipartisan, citizen-driven campaign will give Mainers a government of, by and for the people. A yes vote for Question #1 will limit the influence of special interest money that’s currently fueling our elections.

“We are working to reclaim our democracy, and put our government back in the hands of Mainers by voting Yes on Question 1 and remind politicians to focus on the issues that matter most like education and job creation.”

From Stacey Long Simmons, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs:

“The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund joins campaign-finance reform advocates in Maine and across America in celebrating this significant victory. LGBTQ people know the importance of having greater access to our democracy for all, regardless of monetary circumstances. We are happy that the people of Maine voted in favor of transparency and accountability in elections. We are proud to stand with other Democracy Initiative organizations in celebrating this achievement.”

From Marge Baker, People for the American Way Executive Vice President:

“We already knew that Americans care deeply about getting big money out of elections, and yesterday’s victories showed that voters are taking it upon themselves to make real progress in our cities and states. Voters are frustrated with the big money takeover of our democracy, and they’re channeling that frustration into action. The victories yesterday in Maine and Seattle should remind people across the country that change is indeed possible on money in politics.”

From Joan Mandle, Democracy Matters Executive Director:

“A great day for American democracy! The fantastic victories in Maine and Seattle show that public financing systems are not only constitutional and viable but popular among everyday Americans. With Presidential candidates also supporting public financing, this is a clear demonstration of the growing and diverse movement that will take back our government and make it truly of, by and for the American people.”

From Heather McGee, Demos President:

“Yesterday, Maine voters decisively approved an initiative to fight back against big-money politics and chose  instead  to give ordinary persons a chance to run for office and have their voices heard in our democracy.  The election results for the Maine Accountable Elections initiative are a resounding victory for a people-centered vision of democracy, in which farmers, waitresses, and factory workers are still able to run and win elected office without having to rely on lobbyists and wealthy special interests.  

“Yesterday’s victory will help ensure a government of, by and for the people – rather than government bought and paid for by the wealthiest individuals and special interests.  This will help put government in the hands of Mainers, so that elected officials will focus on the issues that matter to ordinary people – like education and creating jobs that provide decent wages.   

“Demos applauds the tremendous grass-roots energy and mobilizing that led to this victory for We the People in Maine.  We hope that Maine’s leadership on people-centered politics will inspire similar reforms in other states and ultimately in Congress, where legislation such as the Government by the People Act could pave the way for making our federal elections accountable to the people instead of to big money.”

From Anthony Rogers-Wright, Environmental Action Policy & Organizing Director for Environmental Action:

“The passage of Question 1 in Maine is the type of local action that will put give our country and the government it deserves, for and by the people. It’s similar to local actions in communities resisting climate change and fighting for environmental, economic and racial justice, and it passed with bi-partisan support, demonstrating that our country is ready to eviscerate the influence money has in our politics.

“Maine chose not to wait for Citizens United to be overturned—they acted locally and ensured transparent elections that aren’t surreptitiously purchased by corporations and their lobbyists through a system of legal bribery. They put their lawmakers on notice and told them they’ll be held accountable to and by the people. Question 1’s passage will be remembered as an epochal moment in U.S. history.”

From John Bonifaz, Free Speech for People President:

“Thank you to the voters of Maine and Seattle for standing up to defend our democracy. Yesterday’s victories for public funding of our elections mark important steps forward for ending the big money dominance of our politics and for restoring the promise of American self-government: of, by, and for the people.”

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 59 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.

The Democracy Initiative and Allies Celebrate Conclusion of America's Journey for Justice

More than 1,000 activists and advocates joined together at the U.S. Capitol to rally for voting rights and educate elected leaders about the need for a restored Voting Rights Act.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, more than a thousand activists and advocates from as far away as Michigan and Texas, came together to celebrate the conclusion of America’s Journey for Justice. Organized by the NAACP and supported by member organizations of the Democracy Initiative, the 1,000-mile march from Selma, AL, to Washington, DC to demand voting rights centered on the message that our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.

Check out this Storify highlighting the conclusion of the march and the legislative advocacy day rally this morning.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Larry Cohen, Democracy Initiative Chair: 

“Voting rights are fundamental to democracy and it is outrageous that Congress continues to shirk their duty to the American people by not restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Since the 2013 Shelby decision, there hasn't even been a single meaningful hearing. 

“This is completely unacceptable. While millions of people across the country find their constitutional right to vote under threat, Congress sits by and continues to ignore the problem. That is why we are mobilizing millions more to stand up and fight back to build a stronger democracy where every voice is heard and every vote is counted.” 

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President: 

“Our short walk today across the Memorial Bridge, from the gravesites of thousands who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of human freedom to this temple honoring the architect of emancipation, ends a long march from Selma to Washington. 

“But this is not the end of America’s Journey for Justice. 

“From Selma to Washington and indeed in every corner of our country, that journey must continue. This march has reminded the nation that we still have some distance to travel before we realize the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of from these steps a half-century ago. 

“Tomorrow, many of us here will carry that message directly to our representatives at the other end of the National Mall. Common Cause is a citizens’ lobby, with 400,000 members and supporters across the country who are committed to the fight for every American’s right to easy access to the ballot box and a full opportunity to make their voices heard in every election, not just once every four years. 

“We salute our friends at the NAACP for their leadership. On behalf of Common Cause and our partner organizations in the Democracy Initiative, we are proud to have marched with them and so many other Americans of goodwill over the past seven weeks. Some of the signs you see in the audience today are messages sent by Common Causers from across the country to support those who undertook this thousand-mile journey; they speak for an America that too many of us feel has been missing from our national dialogue, one that says that we’re all in this together.” 

From Chris Shelton Communications Workers of America (CWA) President: 

“All along the 860-mile journey, CWA members have been proud participants in ‘America's Journey for Justice,’ pushing back against new attacks on the right to vote across the country. 

“From Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C., we’ve joined our allies and followed in the footsteps of the past generation of civil rights leaders who at great personal cost stood for the rights of all to fully participate in our nation and our democracy. 

“Today, just as 50 years ago, we must build a movement to secure our freedom. This means freedom from want, by expanding good jobs and fair wages, and as well as our democratic freedoms, like the right to vote. That’s the only way to ensure a truly participatory democracy by and for the people. 

“We’ll be taking that message to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who must declare which side they’re on: the side of justice and democracy for all or the extremists who continue to assault our democracy.   

“CWA is proud to stand with the NAACP and all our partners in the Democracy Initiative who are part of the Journey for Justice. Only by joining together as we’re doing today, can we create a society and a community where everyone has an equal voice and an equal chance.” 

From Aaron Mair, Sierra Club President: 

“On behalf of the Sierra Club’s 2.4 million members and supporters, I’m proud to have marched with the NAACP as we crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge to D.C., completing this historic and important journey that brought the call of justice along with every footstep taken. 

“In many ways, this is not the end of the journey, but the beginning. To change everything, we need everyone -- and that begins with securing fundamental rights like equal access to the ballot box. In order to make the changes we need to address real-world issues like climate disruption, all Americans need to be able to participate in our democracy, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background. 

“The Sierra Club is working with the NAACP and our other partners in the Democracy Initiative to help move toward a democracy that truly represents all Americans.  To do so, Congress needs to update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act -- which was gutted just two years ago -- and support the Voting Rights Advancement Act.  As the Journey for Justice demonstrates, the time to act is now.” 

Click here for the complete statement. 

From Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director: 

“For over a month, marchers, activists and organizers have walked 1,000 miles from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC in a passionate call for justice and democracy. Though the march is ending today, its success will be determined by how we all continue to carry the call for justice forward. 

“Corporate interests and billionaires continue to buy our elections and restrict voting rights, with devastating consequences for our health, climate and environment, but we have people power on our side. Step by step, Americans are working to fulfill the promise of a democracy that works for everyone. There is no better place to start than at the US Capitol today where people from all over the country will rally for the restoration of voting rights and remind our elected leaders who they actually represent.” 

Click here for the complete release. 

From Leslie Proll, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Washington Director: 

“This march should be a wake-up call for Congress,” says Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington office. “America’s Journey for Justice focused--in a powerful and sustained way--on inequalities in voting, education, jobs and our criminal justice system. Now, our attention turns to Capitol Hill, where we call upon lawmakers to eliminate these persistent disparities, starting with restoration of the Voting Rights Act.”   

Click here for the complete release. 

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President: 

“Today we stand with the NAACP and the Journey for Justice marchers to say our lives matter, our votes matter and that all working people deserve access to good jobs and a fair economy that benefits everyone and not just the wealthy and privileged few.” 

Click here to read the complete statement. 

From Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director: 

“This summer we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Act. And as we have seen — year in, year out, with one voter suppression tactic after another — the need for the VRA is as important today as it was when it was first enacted. Two years ago we faced a tremendous set back when the Court issued Shelby and gutted the VRA. 

“To this day, people are being turned away at the polls and voter suppression disproportionately impacts people of color, people living in poverty, and the LGBTQ community. Our democracy is too important to be ignored. We can’t get important legislation passed, good legislators elected, or contribute our voices to the future of this country unless we are registered to vote and are actually able to vote.” 

Click here for the complete release. 

From Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President: 

“What a profound and inspiring journey. The marchers who began at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma six weeks ago embraced the idea of an exercise that would challenge them physically, mentally and spiritually, and they arrived in Washington stronger. 

“Now it is time for Congress to heed the call of these marchers, who said, ‘Our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools count.’ Working women and men across the country and here in the nation’s capital echo this demand for justice. 

“On behalf of the 2 million members of the Service Employees International Union, I congratulate and salute the ‘Journey for Justice’ marchers.” 

From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President: 

“Today, a 1,000 mile march from Selma, Ala. to Washington, D.C., called the Journey for Justice, reaches its conclusion.  The march, led by the NAACP, highlights the urgent need to fight income equality, guarantee equal educational opportunity, reform our criminal justice system and guarantee the right to vote. 

“We commend the leaders and members of the NAACP for more than a century of leadership on this journey; we are proud to march beside them.” 

From Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights President & CEO: 

“Today is not only the culmination of a historic 1,000 mile march from Selma, it’s the continuation of a march for civil and human rights that began generations ago. We applaud the unwavering strength and courage of all the men and women who joined this journey in the name of equality and freedom, and we are proud to call on Congress to protect the fundamental rights and dignity of each and every American. 

“In the half-century since blood was spilled on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, our nation has witnessed rampant racial profiling and discrimination in our criminal justice system, widening economic and educational disparities, and the loss of crucial voting rights protections.  We should not have to demand the right to vote again. It is unacceptable for the United States, the greatest democracy on earth, to have weaker voting protections than it did half a century ago. 

“We can’t continue to turn the clock back on progress.  Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act, it must fix our criminal justice system, and it must work to ensure that all children receive the quality education they need and deserve. It’s time for Congress to get to work on making our country a more fair and just nation for all people.”

From Nick Nyhart, Every Voice Center President and CEO: 

“In order to advance democracy, it is crucial that we recognize our nation’s failure to ensure justice for all including protecting every American's basic right to vote. Americans want a government of, by, and for the people, but instead we have a rule of the money over the will of the many. The historic 1000-mile march by America’s Journey for Justice brings this message directly to the doorstep of our nation's leaders. Our nation’s journey for justice will not be over until everyone has a voice and a vote in our elections, and politicians are answerable to the people on issues of criminal justice, jobs, and education." 

From Heather McGhee, Demos President: 

“Demos is proud to stand with the participants of America's Journey for Justice from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. to demand full and equal voting rights for every American. It is fitting that today is Constitution Day. We honor the sacrifice of those who fought before us to realize the dream of a truly equal democracy, and take up the mantle to end voting discrimination and to expand political participation.  

“We call on Congress to act to restore the Voting Rights Act. We are stronger together, and at this critical moment we cannot afford to take one step back. Instead, we must move forward to build a movement to achieve political and economic equality in America, so each of us has an equal say and an equal chance.” 

From George Goehl, National People’s Action Executive Director: 

“Since our nation’s founding, our democracy has favored white men, and particularly wealthy white men. And yet, many of our most beautiful moments as a country have been when we have come together to demand equality, shared prosperity, and broad participation in civic life. The abolitionist, women’s suffrage and civil rights movements made the United States a more just and democratic county. Now, with our democracy suffering from new attacks, every member of Congress should unite behind the marchers who have traveled from Selma and support the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.” 

From Michael Slater, Project Vote President: 

“America’s Journey for Justice makes it clear to Congress, as well as 2016 presidential candidates, that American voters demand equal rights and protection in our criminal justice system, our democracy, our work places, and our schools. Today, we are calling for a national advocacy agenda that protects the rights of every American.” 

Click here for the complete statement. 

From Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, Advancement Project Director of Voter Protection: 

“We support all who advocate for the swift passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act. This bi-partisan measure is the only bill that will fully protect voters of color in states where there is an ongoing history of discrimination in voting: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The Advancement Act also includes essential protections in all states, by requiring federal review of voting practices that are known to be discriminatory, before they are test-driven in elections, and does not exclude strict voter ID laws. The tenants of a just democracy require that all eligible voters have free and fair access to the ballot box. The Advancement Act provides direly-needed protection for the most sacred of our rights; the right to vote. We applaud the efforts communities around the country are making to support this legislation, and we support organizers as they march on to Capitol Hill.” 

Click here for the complete statement.

From Marcia Johnson-Blanco, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Voting Rights Project Co-Director: 

“America’s Journey for Justice Advocacy Day is an important opportunity to amplify our demand that Congress restore the VRA. At stake is the first presidential election in which voters will lack the Act’s full protections. This cannot stand. The Lawyers’ Committee remains steadfast with its partners in defending the hard-won victories secured by Americans who believed that the right to vote was worth their lives and to call on Congress to ensure that all Americans have a voice.” 

Click here for the complete statement.

From Larry Hanley, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) President: 

“The Amalgamated Transit Union is proud to stand united with the Democracy Initiative and the NAACP, as they complete the1,000-mile Journey for Justice to show the nation that ‘our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.’ The message they bring to Washington couldn’t be more important.

“Democracy is critically endangered when black lives are snuffed out in an instant and justice is denied; when the “ruling class” makes it difficult for poor people to vote; when a full time job won’t provide the means to sustain even a meager livelihood; when generations of underprivileged families are trapped in a marginal existence by inadequate education, and the wealth gap continues to grow. 

“That’s why what you’re doing here in Washington is so important.  You have come a thousand miles not just for yourselves, but to save our country from the fatal consequences of systemic and economic injustice.

“History shows that society cannot advance without the prophetic voices of people like you who speak truth to power.  ATU fully supports the goals of your march, and commends you for bringing this crucial message to our elected officials on Capitol Hill.  

 From Rob Weissman, Public Citizen President: 

“‘Inspiring’ is the word that best sums up the Journey for Justice, a march that began in Selma, Ala., and ends this week in Washington, D.C.

“Marchers have chanted, waved signs and, above all, kept walking – some of them along the entire 1,000-mile path of the march. They have done so in the name of justice and democracy, to call attention to economic inequality, the dire need for criminal justice reform, the appalling rollback of voting rights and the critical need for education reform.

“Today, they will descend on the Capitol to deliver a message to lawmakers: “Our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools matter.” They are advancing an agenda that aims to protect the right of every American to a fair criminal justice system, uncorrupted and unfettered access to the ballot box, sustainable jobs with a living wage, and equitable public education.

“Fifty years after Selma, our country still has a long way to go in pursuit of racial and economic justice. The ongoing epidemic of police violence against African-Americans – not new, but newly documented by cell phone videographers – is just one reminder. But Selma also reminds us that it is protest and mobilization that drives forward the pursuit of justice and democracy, which is why the NAACP’s inspiring action is so important.

“The Journey for Justice message cannot and will not be ignored. We applaud the NAACP for organizing this event and call on policymakers to listen to marchers’ stories and heed their call for justice.” 

From National Action Network: 

“National Action Network (NAN) applauds the NAACP and supporting organizations for completing “America’s Journey for Justice” – the 1000 mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC, to call for fairness in the criminal justice system, equity in education and employment, and voter protection under the law. In conjunction with the culmination of this march, NAN supports the NAACP’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, an important opportunity for Congressional and Senate leaders to hear about the need to restore the Voting Rights Act and other key measures. The NAACP has been a longtime partner of NAN in the fight for justice around key civil rights issues and we are pleased that our members and staff supported this historic call to action.” 

From Bob Brandon, Fair Elections Legal Network President: 

“The Journey for Justice illustrates the long way our nation has come in terms of voting rights and other social issues that impact all Americans. This day of advocacy highlights that there is still work to be done and a long way to go on this path to make sure every citizen has access to basic rights like voting, education and a living wage. We applaud the NAACP and the many supporters who have traveled far and wide and raised a great deal of awareness throughout their journey.” 

From Emma Boorboor, U.S. PIRG Election Reform Campaign Director: 

“Following yesterday’s arrival of America’s Journey for Justice 1,000-mile march from Selma, U.S. PIRG today joined nearly 1,000 NAACP and Democracy Initiative activists for an Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Today’s efforts build on new momentum to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), legislation that would prevent discriminatory voting restrictions in every state. 

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down a key piece of the Voting Rights Act that required states and local governments with a history of discrimination to receive federal approval before changing their election practices. Since that decision, we have seen a wave of new state laws that increase barriers to voting, with low-income and minority communities particularly hard hit. In 2014 our country saw the lowest voter turnout since World War II, proving we need more participation not less. 

“In a functioning democracy we should ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot. When all voices are heard, we’ll see more action on issues Americans care about, issues people marched 1,000 miles to raise up. 

“It is past time for Congress to act to restore the health of our democracy and pass the VRAA. But we are making progress – the VRAA now has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, putting us in fighting distance of the biggest voting rights win in decades.”

From Jon Fox, Friends of the Earth Senior Democracy Campaigner: 

“If we want to protect our planet for future generations, Friends of the Earth believes we must deepen and strengthen our democracy. Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, it is now time for Congress to restore and protect the right to vote for all Americans, and ensure that no American faces discrimination at the polls. 

“America set the standard for participatory democracy, yet in 2015 there are still Americans who are fighting to exercise their basic right to vote and be heard. 

“Today’s rally sent a clear message to Congress. It’s time to protect the rights and voice of all Americans by passing the new Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and more than 85 other cosponsors in the House.” 

Click here for the complete statement. 

From Democracy Matters Institute: 

"Democracy Matters stands with the values that have propelled the NAACPs outstanding work organizing "America's Journey for Justice". Restoring the VRA and ensuring equal representation under the law for all voters is a critical part of a movement to restore a democracy that works for everyone."

 

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 58 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.

Democracy Initiative Organizations and Allies Rally for Voting Rights in Virginia on 2nd Anniversary of Shelby v. Holder

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, on the 2nd anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, hundreds of environmental, labor, and civil rights activists joined member organizations of the Democracy Initiative and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, and journeyed to Elmwood Park in Roanoke, VA to rally for voting rights and an equal voice for all in our democracy.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Larry Cohen, Democracy Initiative Chair: 

“The Voting Rights Act is fundamental to our democracy, and it is outrageous that on the two year anniversary of the Shelby decision, we have yet to even have a single Congressional hearing to fix it. The Democracy Initiative worked with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to organize the rally in Roanoke and Rep. Goodlatte, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, would be wise to take notice of the growing movement at his doorstep. His obstruction will not go unnoticed as Americans across the country demand full voting rights similar to those in every other 21st century democracy.” 

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President: 

“The systematic racism that the Voting Rights Act was passed to repair still exists and in some ways has expanded. The labor movement is committed to giving a voice to the underrepresented. We will not stand by and watch as Congress and state leaders continue to erect new barriers to people trying to exercise their basic right to vote. Now is the time to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.” 

From Lee Saunders, AFSCME President: 

“Today, AFSCME stands with the countless Americans and community organizations rallying to restore voting rights stripped of citizens in the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision two years ago. 

“By allowing political games to trump decades of law, the Supreme Court opened the door for discriminatory legislation, policies and practices that disenfranchise communities and impede citizens from exercising their constitutional right to vote. The Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision steamrolled the most basic right of ordinary Americans, and a centerpiece of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Congress must take action to restore the Voting Rights Act and to safeguard every voter’s say in our democracy.  AFSCME is committed to ensuring that ordinary Americans have a voice, both in the workplace and in the polling place. We demand that our leaders protect the right to vote.” 

From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President: 

“While attacks on voting rights have proliferated in direct response to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, Rep. Goodlatte has failed not just to hold a hearing on legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, but even to acknowledge that voting discrimination exists. Such willful disregard for the fundamental rights of African-Americans and others is an embarrassment to American democracy.”    

From Terry Ao Minnis, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC Director of Census and Voting Programs:

“Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the country,  naturalizing and registering to vote in places least expected – the U.S. South and Midwest. These regions, which have a history of discrimination in voting, are where minority communities need the most protection at the voting booth. The number of Asian Americans registered to vote in Virginia increased by 136 percent between 2004 and 2012, and the number of Asian Americans casting ballots in Virginia increased by 180 percent between 2004 and 2012, rates significantly higher than all other racial groups. 

“While an unprecedented number of Asian Americans turned out to vote in 2012 in Virginia, voters are no longer protected in the same way as they were before the Shelby decision. As Asian American communities continue to grow rapidly in Virginia and other Southern states, racial tensions could increase, and discrimination at the polls could also increase, resulting in decreased Asian American voter turnout. The Voting Rights Act, if restored, can help ensure that Asian Americans can vote free from discrimination and be able to influence elections in the future.”  

From Campaign for America’s Future: 

“The Campaign for America’s Future stands in solidarity with people from throughout the country who are converging in Roanoke, Va., to demand full voting rights. 

“It is unconscionable that the fundamental right to vote, and the fundamental principle of every citizen having an equal voice in our democracy, is under assault from so many quarters – from the Supreme Court’s action to strip preclearance provisions from the Voting Rights Act to the state legislatures that have erected barriers to the ballot box that keep African Americans, Hispanics, low-income people, students and anyone else with a vested interest in challenging the corporate/conservative status quo from voting. 

“It is particularly egregious that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Roanoke’s representative in the House, Rep. Robert Goodlatte, won’t even allow a hearing on legislation – co-sponsored by a fellow Republican – that would repair the damage done by the Supreme Court’s preclearance ruling. To deny a hearing on legislation to strengthen the Voting Rights Act is to deny equal access to our democracy. It is time for Rep. Goodlatte to end his resistance and allow citizens, through their Congress, to make the promise of a right to vote a reality.” 

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President: 

“For nearly a half-century, the Voting Rights Act worked. It brought millions of people into full membership in our democracy and prevented thousands of discriminatory practices from taking hold in states across the country. But the right to vote remains in jeopardy. That’s why, with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress reauthorized the law in 2006. It’s why Congress needs to act again to repair the damage done to the law by the Supreme Court. New legislation, in keeping with the Supreme Court’s mandate, has been introduced.  It would restore the Act’s protections. The right to vote is not a Democratic or Republican matter; it’s an American guarantee.” 

From Communications Workers of America (CWA): 

“It’s shameful that as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we have to fight again to end discrimination against citizens who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. 

CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, riding the bus to Roanoke, said, “more than 50 years ago, people suffered tremendously for the right to vote. We thought that battle was won when the Voting Rights Act was passed, but sadly, we must continue to fight against attacks on our right to vote.” 

From Democracy Matters:

“Ensuring the right of all Americans to vote and participate in democracy is central to our American way of life. Democracy Matters is proud to stand with partner organizations in the Democracy Initiative in supporting the restoration of the VRA. Democracy Matters supports universal access to the democratic process for all citizens and supports all efforts to protect citizens against laws designed to impede the ability of Americans to exercise their full civil rights.” 

From Demos: 

“Today, Demos proudly stands with hundreds of concerned Americans to demand that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) so it can fulfill its original intent—to secure the right to vote to all Americans. 

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to voting rights by striking down key parts of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder. Since then, state legislatures across the country have rushed to implement new restrictive laws such as inequitable redistricting plans, restrictive voter ID laws, and restriction of early voting opportunities. And despite public outcry and a bipartisan effort to restore the VRA, congressional leadership has decided to ignore voter discrimination and the will of the American people.  

“Indeed, though members of Congress from both parties traveled to Selma earlier this year to honor the marchers who experienced horrific violence and brutality to secure the right to vote, they have failed to restore the voting protections for which brave Americans lost their lives. Further, unless Congress acts, voters in 2016 will face the first presidential election in 50 years where they will lack crucial protections in federal law to combat racial discrimination in voting.  

“Lawmakers paid tribute to the marchers’ courage, but when Congress commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the VRA in this August, we expect them to do so with a fully restored Voting Rights Act in place.” 

From Nick Nyhart, Every Voice Center President and CEO: 

“One person, one vote! Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act passed into law, Congress is failing to protect every American’s basic right to vote, and we now have the rule of the money over the will of the many. Democracy is strongest when everyone has a vote and a voice in our elections.” 

Click here to read the entire statement. 

From John Bonifaz, Free Speech for People Founder and President: 

“Two years ago, the US Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, invalidated critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark voting rights law passed in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all Americans are included in our democracy. We urge Congress to act today to restore the Voting Rights Act in this 50th anniversary year of its passage. The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy.  As a nation committed to the promise of political equality and the principle of one person, one vote, we must protect this fundamental right for all Americans.”   

From Rachel Rye Butler, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaigner: 

“A healthy democracy is one free of voter disenfranchisement. It is vital that all Americans—especially communities already on the front lines of the climate crisis-- have access to one of the most fundamental rights of our democracy.   

“We stand with civil rights leaders in calling for voting rights to be upheld for all Americans. Equality and justice are part of our shared vision for the future, and today in Roanoke, we stand with our allies to move that vision forward. It’s high time that Congress restore the Voting Rights Act.” 

From Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters President: 

“A critical step in the fight against climate change is an open and fair electoral process where every American’s voice can be heard. Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, widespread attacks on voting rights show us how far we must go to secure a healthy democracy. Congress should act now to protect marginalized communities and stop discrimination within our elections.” 

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO: 

“It is appalling that 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was passed, we as a country are still fighting to protect the rights of all Americans to have unfettered access to the ballot box. In the two years since the Supreme Court dismantled the protections found in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, voters across the country have witnessed a series of voter suppression measures including the adoption of restrictive voter ID laws, roll backs to early voting, and the elimination of same day registration, which most impact people of color, low income communities, students and the elderly. On the 50th anniversary of the VRA, Congress has both the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that all Americans have equal access to our democracy by taking steps to restore Section 4b of the Voting Right Act.” 

From Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network President and Founder: 

“I applaud those members of Congress who came together today to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Voting Rights Advancement Act addresses the modern-day assault on the right to vote that impacts a broad cross section of American voters, including people of color, young people, veterans and people with disabilities, who too often need these protections. 

“Unfortunately, voting discrimination continues to undermine the fundamental rights of millions of Americans to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Discrimination is not unique to one region or one state, it reaches all parts of our great country. In the two years since the Supreme Court struck down key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act, American voters have been subject to more restrictive voting laws than at any other time in the last 50 years.  

“If we don’t act now, the 2016 election will be the first time in 50 years that voters will not have the full protections guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act. As the leading democracy in the world, voting should be free, fair and accessible to all. The Voting Rights Advancement Act will help achieve these goals and I urge Congress to vote on it without delay.” 

From Melanie Campbell,  National Coalition of Black Civic Participation President and CEO: 

“The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (The National Coalition) and Black Youth Vote, which includes more than 60 national organizations and state-based affiliates representing nearly 40 million Americans, is proud  to be part of  today’s protest  with  the  Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR, Democracy Initiative and others in our fight to protect the voting rights for all Americans.  We stand in solidarity with our civil rights and social justice allies by joining in the #RestoreVRA Rally in Roanoke, VA to urge Congress to restore the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.   Today, Thursday, June 24 marks two years  since the  U.S. Supreme Court  gutted Section 4 of the VRA.  Now is the time for Congress to do the right thing and restore the Voting Rights Act. 

“The National Coalition is dedicated to increasing civic engagement and voter participation in Black and underserved communities. The National Coalition is committed to encouraging fully participation in a barrier-free democracy.” 

From Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director: 

“Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the devastating Shelby decision and gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Court's ruling was followed by a flood of state laws across the nation that impede voters’ constitutional right to vote. 

“Every year, election after election, people of color are having their right to vote diminished by unnecessary voter ID laws as well as discriminatory polling practices. As LGBTQ people, we know all too well what it means to be marginalized and denied basic rights. 

“This summer, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we stand united in our commitment to ensuring that these rights are fully restored. We cannot allow these precious rights to be taken away from us when we know there was blood, sweat, and tears that was shed by so many to secure them. We must continue working to eliminate all barriers to full freedom, justice, and equality for all. We thank our legislative champions for introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act and we strongly urge Congress to pass this vital legislation.” 

From Joe Velasquez, National Council of La Raza Action Fund Executive Director: 

“It is disgraceful that Congress has done nothing to restore our voting rights in the two years since the Supreme Court hollowed out the Voting Rights Act.  Democracy cannot survive when our lawmakers let voting discrimination run rampant, ignore the proliferation of perverse barriers that seek to exclude marginalized voters, and otherwise neglect their duty to protect our system of government of, by, and for the people. 

“Chairman Goodlatte has the power to fix this untenable state of affairs, and yet he has so far chosen to absurdly claim that the VRA needs no rehabilitation. We remind Rep. Goodlatte that burying his head in the sand will not make voting discrimination disappear, and we call on the Chairman to lead Congress in restoring the gutted Voting Rights Act.” 

From Bobby Tolbert, National People’s Action Vice President

“The Voting Rights Act has played a pivotal role in building our democracy and safeguarding the right to vote so that everyone has a voice. But the Roberts' Supreme Court is more in touch with special interests and big corporations than with voters' rights. The Roberts Court is willing to roll back democracy itself to advance an agenda that favors big money over everyday people. We hope Congressman Goodlatte will stand with the people instead of an out of touch Supreme Court.” 

From Michael Keegan, People for the American Way President: 

“We join together to recognize both the brave leaders who paved the way for the Voting Rights Act fifty years ago and the road ahead to restore protections at the polls. For almost half a century, this landmark law helped ensure that people of color had equal access to the ballot box. 

“It is imperative that Congress restores the protections that the Court gutted two years ago. Two years is far too long for voters to face the threat, and the reality, of increased racial discrimination at the polls. As we gear up for the 2016 presidential election, it’s more urgent than ever for these protections to be restored. 

“Today we call on Chairman Goodlatte and his colleagues to honor those who have fought for decades for the right to cast a vote that counts by working together to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.” 

Click here to read the entire statement.

From Michael Slater, Project Vote President: 

“It would be nice to think that racial injustice was truly a thing of the past in America, but recent events have reminded us that this country is still grappling fiercely with issues of violence, discrimination, and inequality. The protections of the Voting Rights Act are every bit as vital now as they were 50 years ago, and Congress must act now to restore them if we as a nation are to go forward, not backwards.” 

Click here to read the rest of their release. 

From Aaron Mair, Sierra Club President: 

“In places like Roanoke, communities that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and facing the worst environmental injustices are the same ones experiencing voter suppression and racial discrimination. Voter suppression holds communities back from truly participating in our democracy and addressing pressing issues like the climate crisis.” 

From Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director:

“The Shelby decision was a major setback for voting rights and will have a real impact on voters. The Voting Rights Act is a vital tool to ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot. For more than 35 years, U.S. PIRG has worked for a vibrant democracy, to make it as easy as possible for citizens to vote and register to vote. We urge Congress to act in the best interest of our democracy by wasting no time in updating the Voting Rights Act. Let’s not let the 2016 election become the first presidential contest in 50 years where voters lack crucial protections to ensure that every eligible voter can cast their ballot regardless of race, age or gender.” 

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.

Democracy Initiative Members and Allies Express Disappointment After Maryland Gov. Hogan Vetoes Voter Re-Enfranchisement Bill

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Washington, DC – Last Friday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed an historic voting rights bill, SB 340, which would have restored the right to vote for nearly 40,000 previously incarcerated Marylanders. The legislation, passed through the Maryland General Assembly with overwhelming majorities, would have allowed individuals who had completed their incarceration to register to vote. Unfortunately, Governor Hogan failed to recognize the importance and potential impact of this legislation, denying nearly 40,000 Marylanders the right to have their voices heard in their communities.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative.

From Jane Henderson, Executive Director at Communities United:

“Communities United is disappointed by Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of voting rights legislation (SB 340). People leaving the criminal justice system urgently need to be re-enfranchised and once again have a voice in their communities. Communities United and other advocates fought to change Maryland’s voting rights law because the current system is broken and does not strike a “proper balance.” It just keeps Marylanders from voting.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor has effectively disenfranchised 40,000 Marylanders who want to participate in their communities. The Maryland General Assembly can’t override Hogan’s veto until they reconvene in January 2016, which undermines efforts to register voters and may suppress voting in the 2016 Baltimore City and federal elections as well in subsequent elections.

“Gov. Hogan has learned nothing from the uprising in Baltimore and what the city and state residents need. Freddie Gray’s West Baltimore neighborhood has the highest rate of disenfranchisement in the state. Former felons need a voice and the ability to influence what happens in their communities and lives.

“Voting is a human right and we will continue to push and fight for the re-enfranchisement of all citizens.”

From Judith Browne Dianis and Penda Hair, Advancement Project Co-Directors:

“It is unacceptable that Governor Hogan unilaterally denied tens of thousands of his own constituents their fundamental right to vote,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Nationwide, one in every 13 Black adults cannot vote as a result of laws that revoke voting rights for persons with prior felony convictions. In Maryland, African Americans account for 65-percent of those disenfranchised due to a prior felony conviction, while comprising only 30-percent of the state’s population. While everyone deserves a second chance, Governor Hogan appears to ignore that basic American value for people of color, who are  disenfranchised due to structural racism that contributes to African Americans and Latinos being disproportionately detained and arrested, unreasonably searched, wrongly imprisoned and punished more severely than other racial groups.”

“Last week, Maryland’s governor unnecessarily denied voting rights for people who have repaid their debt to society and been released from incarceration,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “Instead of being embraced as full participants in our society, 40,000 Marylanders have been cast aside and deprived of their fundamental right to vote. Restoring voting rights is fundamental to fostering full community integration and the fulfillment of our core democratic principles. The Maryland legislature seized the opportunity to create a more just and inclusive democracy by passing this bill, and the governor did nothing more than stand in the way of progress by vetoing it. The voters of Maryland deserve better, and anyone who believes in the values of just democracy should expect more.”

From Tomas Lopez, Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law:

“At a time when leaders of both political parties are uniting to reform our criminal justice system, this veto is a failure of leadership by Governor Hogan. After the unrest in Baltimore, Marylanders are demanding to be heard. Restoring voting rights to 40,000 citizens would expand our democracy and increase public safety. Other lawmakers in Maryland understand this and have offered leadership. Governor Hogan has offered excuses. The General Assembly should respond by overriding his veto and giving these citizens a second chance."

From said Katrina Gamble, Director of Civic Engagement and Politics at the Center for Popular Democracy:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Governor has vetoed a bill that would restore the right to vote to 40,000 people. A disproportionate amount of the disenfranchised in Maryland are from low-income communities of color. The Governor's veto undermines democracy and disenfranchises 40,000 people who should have a voice and a vote. 

“We call on the state legislature to override Governor Hogan’s veto and support the restoration of voting rights.”

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:

“Gov. Hogan missed an opportunity last week to make Maryland’s democracy more robust and engaging. His veto of a bill that would restore the right to vote to nearly 40,000 individuals who've completed their prison sentences ignores the will of the people as expressed through their legislature. Gov. Hogan claimed he couldn't support SB 340 because the men and women it would affect are “still serving their time” through parole or probation. The governor seems not to understand what those terms mean. When individuals are released from prison on parole or probation, they are called on to re-engage in their communities, secure and maintain jobs, and pay their taxes. To demand that they accept these responsibilities without granting their attending rights injures the former offenders and their communities and smacks justice in the face. With people of color disproportionately represented in the prison system – both in Maryland and across the country – this issue raises civil rights concerns that state and federal governments can and should remedy. We need to do better by our citizens and our democracy.” 

From Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos:

“Restoring the right to vote to citizens returning to their communities is critical to make sure that every voice is heard in our democracy. Felon disenfranchisement laws have a racist past and a racially discriminatory current impact that should not be perpetuated. Demos urges the Maryland legislature to override the veto and enact this long-overdue reform.”

From Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Every Voice Center:

“Democracy is strengthened when every citizen has a vote and a voice which is why restoring a person’s right to vote once they’ve paid their debt to society is a standard that should apply in Maryland and in every state across the nation. Gov. Hogan did the right thing by funding Maryland’s public financing system, yet today he proved to be inconsistent in his efforts to lift up the voices of everyday people in the political process. Every Voice Center will continue to work with Communities United, state legislators, and all those who are fighting to ensure all Marylanders have the basic right to vote on matters that affect them, their families, and their communities.”

From Robert Brandon, President of the Fair Elections Legal Network:

“We are surprised and disappointed by the Governor’s decision to block the re-enfranchisement of 40,000 ex-offenders. The point of probation and parole is to create a path for those convicted of crimes to become productive members of society. If Governor Hogan wants formerly incarcerated persons to be integrated back into the community, he should have supported their right to vote as part of that process.”

From Rachel Rye Butler, Democracy Campaigner at Greenpeace:

“Our democracy and our communities are strongest when everyone is able to meaningfully participate in the decisions that impact their lives and the health of their families and communities. Restoring the right to vote to citizens returning to their communities from prison is a necessary step to address a criminal justice system that, like environmental pollution, has systematically and disproportionately impacted people of color. Once again, we applaud the Maryland Legislature for passing this bill to restore voting rights, and we support calls to override the Governor's exclusionary veto. Keeping people out of decisions that impact them only weakens communities and our democracy.”

From: Marcia Johnson Blanco, Co-Director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“We are truly disappointed that Governor Hogan has failed to give a second chance to the nearly 40,000 previously incarcerated Marylanders who have served their sentences and wish to fully participate as voting citizens in their communities. His veto perpetuates restrictive policies that unjustly disenfranchise individuals and disproportionately affect minorities.”

From Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director:

“We are disappointed with Governor Hogan’s veto of Maryland’s re-enfranchisement bill. Too many LGBTQ people—and transgender people specifically—know very well what it means to be unfairly treated by the criminal justice system and to be denied the right to vote. While our country has made significant gains to equality, the Justice Department’s report confirming racially-biased policing by officers in Ferguson, as well as the ongoing killing of black youth across the nation, demonstrate the need to reform our criminal justice and voting rights laws. 

“To this day, unfair voting laws keep marginalized groups from the ballot box and racially biased policing disproportionally criminalizes the most vulnerable. In fact, 71 percent of crack cocaine users are white but 84 percent of those arrested for possession were black according to Amnesty International. We’re a nation that believes in equal opportunity and second chances. Increasing voting participation among all Americans, including those returning home from prison seeking to create a better world for their families, will lead toward fairness and equal treatment under the law.”

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“We are deeply disappointed with Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to veto the state legislature’s overwhelming support to re-enfranchise nearly 40,000 Marylanders. Among them are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, business owners and community leaders who have paid their debt to society, are contributing to their communities but cannot live fully productive lives. Restoring the right to vote for returning citizens moves us in the direction of promoting participatory democracy, lowering recidivism and transforming our communities. Our vote is our voice. The NAACP will continue to fight on behalf of the unheard by working alongside our allies and with the state legislature. NAACP members across the state will continue to press onward to override Governor Hogan’s veto and restore the voting rights of Marylanders once and for all.”

Gregory T. Moore, Executive Director, NAACP-National Voter Fund:

"The NAACP-National Voter Fund congratulates the efforts of Communities United and the broad based Coalition of organizations who were able urge the legislature to pass a long overdue re-enfranchisement legislation in the state of Maryland. The bill, SB 380 passed both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly with overwhelming majorities. The vast majority of the citizens of Maryland support second chances for their fellow citizens who have paid their debt to society.

"We applaud Governor Larry Hogan for signing the Maryland Second Chance Act of 2015, but express our profound disappointment that he did not find the courage to demonstrate that same commitment for a second chance when it comes to restoring the right to vote for over 40,000 citizens.  We urge the Maryland General Assembly to override the Governor's veto at the earliest opportunity. It would be a major step in restoring faith in our electoral and criminal justice systems that are both in desperate need of repair."

From Joe Velasquez, Executive Director of National Council of La Raza Action Fund:

"By vetoing SB 340, Governor Hogan has condemned tens of thousands of Maryland citizens to continued disenfranchisement. Rather than offer nearly 40,000 Marylanders a second chance at civic life, Gov. Hogan has foreclosed the possibility of full rehabilitation for those who have already served their time and are now striving to transition back into their communities. 

“We know that felon disfranchisement laws disproportionately affect people of color, and we know that this has to change. As a Latino organization, the NCLR Action Fund is disappointed that Governor Hogan has chosen to maintain the unequal and untenable status quo rather than follow the mandate of the Maryland General Assembly and the Maryland public that he was elected to serve.”

From Michael Slater, President of Project Vote:

“Project Vote is extremely disappointed that Maryland’s governor has vetoed a bill that would have allowed tens of thousands of disenfranchised citizens the opportunity to reintegrate into their communities and participate in the democratic process. Laws that deny the basic rights of citizenship to former felons have a disproportionate impact on low-income Americans and people of color, and deny a voice to the very people who most need to be heard. Our society as a whole is stronger when our representative government truly represents all of its citizens.”

From Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club:

"The Sierra Club is extremely disappointed that Larry Hogan vetoed this important legislation which would have restored voting rights for Maryland citizens returning from prison. This legislation would have empowered communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by both assaults on felon voting rights and assaults on clean air, clean water, and public health. When more Americans can vote, we're stronger and better positioned to stand up to big polluters and corporations that are increasingly dominating our elections and our government. Once people have served their time in prison, they should be able to vote and meaningfully contribute to their communities."

 

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.

Democracy Initiative Organizations Release Statements Supporting Passage of Historic Voter Re-Enfranchisement Bill in Maryland

Monday, April 13, 2015

Washington, DC – Last Friday, the Maryland state legislature passed an historic voting rights bill, restoring the right to vote to nearly 40,000 previously incarcerated Marylanders. The bill, SB 340, simply allows individuals who have completed their incarceration to register to vote. Now awaiting the signature of Governor Larry Hogan who has yet to indicate his support, SB 340 not only gives citizens a voice at the ballot box it ensures their ability to invest in the community.  The legislation passed with broad majority support in both houses thanks to the tireless efforts of Communities United and coalition organizations in Maryland.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative.

From Penda Hair and Judith Browne Dianis, Advancement Project Co-Directors:

“We commend Maryland’s legislature for taking this important stride towards a more just and inclusive democracy,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “No one should be deprived of their fundamental right to vote. As a result of today’s vote, a path has been set for people to fully rejoin their communities and stand alongside their neighbors at the voting booth. This is a momentous day for the 40,000 Marylanders who are set to regain their voice in our political process, and for all who believe in the values of inclusive democracy. Laws that disenfranchise voters based on felony convictions are known to have a disparate impact on voters of color. In Maryland, African Americans have accounted for 65 percent of those disenfranchised due to a prior felony conviction, while comprising only 30 percent of the state’s population. Governor Hogan must do the right thing and sign this historic bill.”

“We applaud the efforts of the courageous grassroots advocates across Maryland who fought for this legislation,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “There are endless benefits to restoring voting rights for people released from incarceration, including the fostering of full community integration and the fulfillment of our core democratic principles. Maryland’s actions to expand voting rights today mark a crucial step, but we must not forget the over 5 million Americans – disproportionately people of color – who remain unable to cast ballots because of prior felony convictions. Nationwide, one in every 13 Black adults cannot vote as the result of such convictions. We hope other states will follow Maryland’s lead and act decisively to expand access to the ballot for all.”

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President:

“An important part of reforming our nation’s criminal justice system is ensuring that we restore voting rights for those with past criminal convictions. Maryland lawmakers are to be applauded for working to protect the voting rights of tens of thousands of formerly incarcerated people. I urge Governor Hogan to sign SB 340 and allow those who have paid their debt to fully participate in our democracy.”

From Tomas Lopez, counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law:

“Americans believe in second chances. Restoring a person’s right to vote once they’ve paid their debt to society gives them an opportunity for redemption and a chance to be full members of their community. This bill will help thousands of people who live, work, and raise families in Maryland. Our democracy will only grow stronger when more citizens participate. We urge the governor to sign it without delay.”

From said Katrina Gamble, Director of Civic Engagement and Politics at the Center for Popular Democracy:

“The Maryland General Assembly has struck a huge blow for fairness and justice by passing legislation to restore the vote to almost 40,000 ex-offenders who are living in the community, holding down jobs, and trying to be responsible citizens. We now call on Governor Hogan to sign the bill into law and promote the full reintegration of our neighbors, friends and family members.”

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:

"The extended disenfranchisement of citizens with felony convictions is a major failing in our democracy. People released from prison have paid the price set by our laws, and fair play and fundamental decency dictate that when people in prison, who are vastly disproportionately from communities of color, return to society, they should regain the basic rights of citizenship," said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport​. "No right is more basic than the right to vote; SB 340 would restore that right to nearly 40,000 Marylanders, thereby fulfilling democracy’s promise that all citizens have a say in the political process."

From Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos:

“We commend Maryland on taking this step forward to ensure the freedom to vote for all citizens. Restoring the right to vote for citizens returning to their communities is critical to make sure every voice is heard in our democracy” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. "Felon disenfranchisement laws have a racist past and racially discriminatory current impact, and changing the system so it is simpler, easier to understand and administer, and more equitable is something all Marylanders can be proud of." 

From Rachel Rye Butler, Democracy Campaigner at Greenpeace:

"The right to vote – just like the right to free speech and protest-- is at the foundation of our democracy, and our democracy is strongest when everyone is able to participate in decisions that impact them," said Rachel Rye Butler, Democracy Campaigner at Greenpeace.  "With a criminal justice system that systematically and disproportionately impacts people of color, the Maryland Legislature took a step in the right direction by passing this bill to restore voting rights to citizens returning to their communities from prison." 

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“The NAACP applauds the Maryland legislature for approving a bill to restore the right to vote to nearly 40,000 people who have paid their debt to society. Throughout the country 5.8 million American citizens are prevented from participating in the voting process; including 4.3 million who continue to be silenced after completing their sentence and returning to their community. Nationally, 1 out of every 13 voting-eligible African-Americans has been stripped of their voting rights. This bill will help thousands of people who currently live, work, and raise families in Maryland every year. We firmly believe in second chances and that citizens who have completed their sentences be allowed to exercise the constitutional right to vote.”

From Gerald Stansbury, NAACP Maryland State Conference President:  

“The SB340 bill will strengthen our communities throughout Maryland. The majority of citizens regaining their voting rights under this legislation are African American so this legislation strengthens participatory democracy in our state. We know also that returning citizens who vote are less likely to be arrested again and more likely to be productive, engaged and law-abiding. This measure is a win for civil rights and public safety. We applaud the General Assembly for its passage of the bill and urge the governor to sign it."

From Joe Velasquez, Executive Director of National Council of La Raza Action Fund:

“Governor Hogan, you have a monumental opportunity to give thousands of Marylanders a second chance, and their voting rights back. By signing SB 340 into law, Maryland can accommodate its citizens - those who’ve served their prison time - with a proper and timely transition into our communities and promote civic participation. 

“It’s disappointing to see the lopsided impact felon disfranchisement laws have on people of color. Instead we should do everything in our power to encourage voting participation amongst minorities and do away with flawed burdens. 

“The National Council of La Raza Action Fund applauds the work Communities United has done on this issue, and prompts Governor Hogan to return the right to vote to his fellow citizens.”

From People for the American Way:

“Disenfranchising those who have served their time in prison hampers the process of reintegration and shamefully blocks thousands of Americans from participating in elections. It worsens the discrimination already faced by formerly incarcerated people — who pay taxes, work, and contribute to their communities — and it weakens our democracy.

“Passage of this bill is a big step forward in the movement for voting rights for all. Now it’s up to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to sign it and help make the state’s democratic process as fair and accessible as possible.”

From  Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Public Campaign:

“Our democracy is stronger when every citizen has a vote and a voice in our political system. We congratulate Communities United and the other groups that worked so hard to pass this bill and to take a step towards ensuring everyone in Maryland has the basic right to vote on matters that affect them, their families, and their communities. Restoring a person’s right to vote once they’ve paid their debt to society is a standard we should apply in every state across the nation.”

From Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club:

"Returning citizens who have served their time deserve a voice in our system to meaningfully contribute to their communities. This legislation would particularly empower communities of color who are disproportionately affected by assaults on their right to vote and assaults on clean air, clean water, and public health. When more Americans can vote, our nation is stronger and better positioned to change the status quo that lets fossil fuel billionaires pollute our environment and our democracy at will. That's why the Maryland Sierra Club applauds this victory to uphold the American principle of equality in our democracy."

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.

Democracy Initiative Organizations and Allies Release Statements Commending Oregon State Legislature’s Passage of New Motor Law

New law heads to Governor Kate Brown’s desk to make voter registration simple and convenient by using DMV data to automatically register eligible voters.
Thursday, March 5, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, members of the Democracy Initiative released statements supporting the passage of HB 2177, also known as the New Motor Voter. This bill, expected to be signed by Governor Kate Brown, makes voter registration simple and convenient for busy Oregon families, seniors and students by using data the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) currently collects to register eligible voters and update address information for already registered voters.

Oregon has been a Motor Voter state since the passage of the federal 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to register eligible voters and update address information for existing voters, sharing data between the DMV and the Office of the Secretary of State. Unfortunately it remains a cumbersome paper process and this bill utilizes existing computer technology to streamline the procedure.

According to data from the Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS), in 2008 90% of registered voters and in 2012 87% of registered voters exercised their right to vote, compared with general population turnouts of 64% and 62% respectively. Oregon’s new legislation is a way for more Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy.

Continue reading for statements from member organizations and allies of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Nathan Howard, Oregon Bus Project Interim Executive Director:

​"​Oregon is a land of firsts: Vote by Mail, Public Beaches, the Bottle Bill. When there’s a problem, this state finds an answer and leads the way.​ ​And the Beaver State just did it again.

“Today Oregon passed​ the​ New Motor Voter, becoming the first state in America to proclaim: If you are an eligible voter, it is our policy to get you a ballot.​ We at the ​Oregon ​Bus Project are ​absolutely ​thrilled to see this important piece of legislation heading to the Governor’s desk.​

“Efficiency, security, and accuracy are reason enough to cheer the passage of New Motor Voter. But we are most excited by the citizens who lacked access to the system before and will finally be heard. Rural Oregonians, who have never been reached by the Oregon Bus Project's nonpartisan voter registration drives. Disadvantaged young people who were never taught they needed to register. Working parents who too often moved houses and missed their ballots. And so many more citizens, with experiences and opinions that deserve representation.

“As these new voters enter our democracy, many will be hungry for information and education on the issues.

​And the Oregon Bus Project will be​ ready and excited to help.​"​

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:

“Oregon is blazing a trail today toward a stronger democracy for its citizens and the rest of the country. By adding newly licensed drivers and those renewing their licenses to the voter rolls, the state is making it simpler and easier for Oregonians to vote,” Rapoport said. "It’s estimated that this reform could add 300,000 people to the electorate in Oregon alone, cutting in half the number of people there who are eligible to register but haven’t done so. This is a step every state should take, and the sooner the better.”

From the Communications Workers of America (CWA):

“The Communications Workers of America (CWA) applauds the Oregon legislature’s passage of the “new motor voter bill,” or HB 2177, which will make voter registration straightforward and convenient for working families. It will tear down obstacles to voting and aid students and citizens who face disenfranchisement simply because of frequent changes in their address.

“The Oregon statute is a model for a nation that’s committed to protecting the voting rights of its citizens and expanding the numbers of people who participate in our democracy.

“Together, with our Democracy Initiative allies, we’re building a real movement to usher in a 21st democracy where all Americans can make their voices heard on Election Day, and where every vote counts.”

From Rachel Butler, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaigner:

"Oregon’s new voting rights law is a huge win for we the people, our democracy and our climate. It’s often those most at risk from pollution that are most likely to have their voices and their votes suppressed. Meanwhile fossil fuel companies use their billions to make sure politics favors the polluters. More representative elections in Oregon means a chance to reset the balance."

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“Democracy is stronger in Oregon today by passing a historic bill that will dramatically expand access to its elections. This measure will add hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to the registration rolls, providing more Oregonians the opportunity to weigh in on issues that affect their family and community. While Oregon is now at the forefront of election reform we continue to witness many states across the country restrict access to the ballot box. We hope that other states across the country follow Oregon’s lead in expanding voting rights for it citizens.”

From Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:

“This legislation is a huge victory for everyone who agrees with the fundamentally American idea that every citizen should have the same opportunity to have their voice heard in our democracy.

“When hurdles that keep Americans from the polls are in place, it empowers those big polluters and corporations that already have a massively outsized influence on our government. And, all too often, these obstacles disenfranchise low income people and communities of color who are facing the worst assaults on clean air, clean water, and public health launched by those same polluters.

“Our democracy can thrive when everyone is on a level playing field, which is why registering to vote should be easy, fair, and transparent. The Sierra Club applauds all those who fought for this bill that recognizes that essential American principle.”

Read the complete release here.

From Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President:

“Voting is a fundamental right that should not only be protected, but made more accessible. At a time when the nation is reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, there’s still much more to be done to make this basic right available to everyone. Congress must act to fix the Supreme Court’s decision to gut a key provision of this important law. Oregon’s actions today are a step in the right direction, and we hope other states will follow suit.”

From National Action Network:

“The right to vote provides a foundation that makes all other rights possible. The Department of Motor Vehicles is one major way Americans register to vote. Oregon’s new motor voter, HB 2177 will streamline voter registration for eligible voters and existing registered voters making it easier to register to vote or update their address information. Using the data DMV currently collects for driver licenses will offer an accurate process that is widely accessible and easy to navigate. National Action Network (NAN) continues to support protecting, modernizing and expanding the right to vote nationwide.”

From Joe Velasquez, Executive Director of National Council of La Raza Action Fund:

"Oregon's move to universal voter registration follows our democracy's true intent everyone has the right to vote. Barriers should never be placed upon voters, instead Americans should be encouraged to be active participants in our democracy.

"NCLR Action Fund commends Oregon's new Governor Kate Brown and its legislatures on their work to expand voting rights.” 

From the United States Students Association and Oregon Students Association:

"The United States Student Association in conjunction with our statewide affiliate The Oregon Students Association is happy to support the passage of Oregon House Bill 2177, known as New Motor Voter.  Oregon’s HB 2177 updates the current process for the Secretary of State’s Office and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to register citizens who are eligible to vote. The passage of New Motor Voter helps expand access to the ballot to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians and creates a secure, safe, and seamless process that helps typically underrepresented individuals participate in political dialogue. 

“It is a priority of the United States Student Association and the Oregon Student Association to engage students in the electoral process and ensure that they can actively participate in our democracy. Every two years, the Oregon Student Association runs the largest nonpartisan voter registration, voter education, and get out the vote drive in Oregon. The Oregon Student Association’s 2014 vote drive resulted in a record-breaking 55,578 people registered to vote by Oregon students, with over 40,000 nonpartisan voter education guides distributed, and over 100,000 individual voter turnout contacts made.  We strongly support making voter registration a simple and easy process without barriers so that every eligible person can be registered to vote. We believe that the passage of Oregon’s HB 2177 will help ensure that even more students can actively participate in future elections.

“The United States Student Association and the Oregon Student Association applaud the passage of HB 2177 because it aspires to create a system where all eligible voters can easily register to vote and helps close the book on historic injustices relating to voting access. We believe that participating in our democracy should be as easy and accessible as possible and we believe Oregon’s HB 2177 does just that." 

From Campaign for America’s Future:

“Key to restoring the voice of ordinary citizens in a democracy is lowering barriers to the ballot box, not raising them. Oregon’s motor voter bill is an example of the kind of process that should exist throughout the country. Integrating existing technology used to verify persons for driver’s licenses and state IDs into the voter registration process helps safeguard against fraud without potentially disenfranchising groups of voters. We urge the state legislature to adopt this bill and keep Oregon in the forefront of making democracy accessible to all.”

From Katrina Gamble, Center for Popular Democracy Director of Civic Engagement and Politics:

“We congratulate Oregon legislators, and the voter advocates who have worked for years to secure this major victory for voting rights. This expansion in access to the vote is important for our country, our families, and our democratic process.

“That this bill passes near the 50th anniversary of historic march in Selma, Alabama and the passage of the Voting Rights Act makes it particularly meaningful.  Its passage also comes against a backdrop of deep struggle where powerful interests are trying to curtail the voting rights of people of color, the poor, young people and the elderly.

“Fifty years after Selma, we should not still be fighting for the right to vote. We are committed to the struggle for justice and will continue to fight for transformative voting reforms that expand the realm of what’s possible to create a truly democratic society.

“That day will come thanks to victories like the one in Oregon today. As we gear up for next steps, we join our partners in celebrating this important accomplishment. It’s a victory for families in Oregon, and an important step for our country.”

From Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director:

“By streamlining the process of registering voters, the New Motor Voter law will make participating in democracy easier for Oregonians. Given the millions of dollars corporate interests like the Koch Brothers spend in elections, it’s vital that everyone can register and vote to push back against policies that threaten our air, water, and food.”

From People for the American Way:

“With new barriers to voting taking root across the country and voting discrimination still a persistent problem, it can be easy to believe that as a country, we are only turning back the clock on voting rights. But this win in Oregon underscores the fact that when we work together to make it easier rather than harder to cast a ballot, we can set an example of how to strengthen our democracy.”

From Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign President and CEO:

“The best way to keep our democracy from falling into the hands of billionaires is to ensure that everyday Americans have a meaningful say in politics. Ensuring that every eligible Oregonian is able to vote is an important step in protecting our democracy.”

From Robert Weissman, Public Citizen President:

“In eliminating needless bureaucratic hurdles to voting, Oregon is delivering on the promise of democracy and setting an example for the country. At a time when so many states are shamefully restricting the right to vote, it’s inspiring to see Oregon remove obstacles to the franchise.”

From Dave Rosenfeld, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Executive Director:

“Voting is a both a sacred American right and a great responsibility. It is important that our voting systems are set up and managed for simplicity of use and utmost integrity. One logistical step in that system is to determine both a person’s citizenship (and thus, eligibility to vote) and domicile. From our nation’s founding through the 20th century, this end could only be achieved by requiring citizens to submit a unique registration form to elections officials – initially and each time a citizen changed addresses. Today, that same end can often be achieved through a secure electronic transfer of existing Oregon Department of Transportation customer records to elections officials. Moving in this direction moves us one step closer to a nimbler, more-user friendly government.

“It is important to remember that all we are talking about is a logistical step that is needed to determine one’s eligibility to vote and current address. The choice to actually cast a ballot remains – as it should – an intensely private decision that each and every individual must make for themselves. Nothing in HB 2177 tampers with that basic right. Instead, HB 2177 makes that one logistical step work a little bit more efficiently and frees up Oregon citizens to focus even more of their attentions on the important and difficult work of citizenship. We commend Oregon’s lawmakers and Governor Kate Brown for taking this important step.”

 

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.

Democracy Initiative Organizations Release Statements on the 5th Anniversary of Citizens United Urging Reform

Five years after the SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United, Democracy Initiative organizations are united in fighting to end the corrupting influence of money in our political process
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, members of the Democracy Initiative released statements articulating the consequences of the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United v. FEC decision. These statements are a small part of the movement of millions of Americans who are frustrated with the dysfunctional politics of the status quo. 

Continue reading for statements from member organizations of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Sarita Gupta, Jobs With Justice Executive Director:

“Five years since the Supreme Court’s shocking Citizens United decision, big money spent by extremist conservatives in politics has done nothing but widen our country’s inequality gap even further. It’s the exact kind of pay-to-play shenanigans that makes it impossible for our democracy to be truly representative, and for the voices of all people – particularly working people – to be heard. Because virtually every issue that we care about from climate change, to education, to Wall Street reform, goes back to the power of money and corporations in politics.

“We have to end the corrupting influence of money in politics. On every single one of those issues, there are big corporations standing in the way of change. Are we going to stand for this? Or are we going to speak up on behalf of regular people?” 

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“We shouldn’t have to pay to play in American democracy. Our public officials shouldn’t regard us as second-class citizens just because we don’t donate, or don’t donate enough, to their campaign. That’s like the police not protecting your home because you couldn’t afford tickets to the Policeman’s Ball.

“The NAACP has been working hard for many years-even decades to reform our criminal justice system so that not only does Black Lives Matter, but All Lives Matter when it comes receiving equal justice. But we also want to make sure our voices also matter when it comes to making our political system more representative of true democracy. 

"We are not just facing oppression from bad or poorly trained policing. We are facing oppression from the very democracy that promised us an equal voice. Getting big money out of politics is an equal rights issue because it disbars millions of Americans for the sake of the American millionaires. It is time to level the playing field.”

From Mike Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:

“The hundreds of millions spent by big polluters in recent elections shows that the deeply-flawed Citizens Uniteddecision has given the same people polluting our air and water with toxic contamination a free pass to pollute our democracy with toxic money. On the fifth anniversary of this decision, we’re reminded how it has let a handful of billionaires drown out the voices of everyone else, whether its those fighting for clean air, championing safe workplaces, or defending our right to vote. Five years of Citizens United is five years too many. That’s why the Sierra Club is joining the chorus of voices supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn this decision and backing legislation get big money out of politics and restore a government of, by, and for the people.” 

From Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director:

Citizens United allows corporations to have yet another avenue for gaming the political system. It allows corporations to use their political influence to essentially buy themselves a government that is willing to implement their agenda. We need to make sure that both corporate personhood and unlimited campaign expenditures aren’t allowed in our system. As long as they are, our democracy will be hobbled and moneyed elite and their political henchmen will hold political power.” 

From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President:

“Five years ago today, in a stunning display of judicial overreach, the Supreme Court abruptly broke with long-settled precedent to fundamentally change the rules of the game in favor of big business.

Citizens United was no isolated case.  It is part of a pattern in which the Roberts Court majority repeatedly pursues an agenda that favors powerful corporate interests and the wealthy at the expense of everyday Americans.”

For the complete release, click here

From Karen Hobert-Flynn, Common Cause Senior Vice President for Strategy and Programs:

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has correctly described Citizens United as the worst decision of the Roberts Court; that makes it very bad indeed. From courthouses to statehouses and the nation’s Capitol, it has given us a generation of politicians who are more focused on the concerns of their big dollar donors than the challenges facing the millions of Americans struggling to reach or remain in the middle class. Congress should listen to the 16 states and more than 600 localities whose voters or their representatives have called for a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision.​​"

From the Communications Workers of America (CWA):

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable are pushing a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would result in an even bigger corporate power grab. The TPP would place the “expected future profits” of multinational corporations ahead of U.S. citizens, communities, our health and security. Corporations could challenge any laws and regulations that they believe jeopardize their profits in secret, international tribunals.“

For the complete release, click here.

From Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director:

“Urgently needed policies to take action on climate change are being blocked by politicians that are beholden to their wealthy corporate donors, like climate denier billionaires the Koch Brothers. Citizens United needs to be overturned, so that those with vast fortunes can no longer buy the voices and votes of our politicians. We need to get corporations out, and people back into our democracy."

 From Brenda Wright, Demos Vice President of Legal Strategies:

Five years after Citizens United, our big money political system is stalling economic mobility for working families and undermining our nation’s struggle for racial equity.  To guarantee a government that is truly of, by, and for all the people, we must lift up the voices of average voters by matching small political contributions with limited public funds, and put reasonable limits on translating economic might into political power.  To limit big money, we’ll need to rescue our pro-democracy Constitution from a series of misguided Supreme Court rulings—either by transforming the Court’s approach to money in politics or amending the Constitution directly.”

 From John Bonifaz, Co-Founder and President of Free Speech for People:

"In the five years since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, Americans all across the country have risen up to demand a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution to reclaim our democracy," says John Bonifaz, the Co-Founder and President of Free Speech For People.

"And, we will keep rising until we win. History is on our side. We the people, neither we the corporations nor big money interests, shall rule in America." 

From Marge Baker, People for the American Way Executive Vice President:

"Citizens United didn't only set the stage for the massive rise in outside spending we've seen since then; it also reinvigorated a national movement that has made incredible advances in these five years.

“Since the ruling was handed down in 2010, local organizers have successfully advocated for resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse decisions like Citizens United in sixteen states and more than 600 cities and towns. It's a campaign that has gone from the grassroots to the halls of Congress, where this September the Senate held a historic vote on one such proposal. In just five years, five million Americans have signed their name to petitions calling for a constitutional amendment to fix our democracy.

“The message of these resolutions and signatures is clear: the richest and most powerful among us should not be able to buy elections. The strength of your political voice should not be dictated by how much money you have in your wallet.”

For the complete statement, click here.

From Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign President and CEO:

"On the fifth anniversary of Citizens United there’s no better time to take up legislation to increase political participation and empower everyday people in politics. The Government By the People Act, along with other important bills to address our broken campaign finance being introduced today, are critical to create a fairer, more equal democracy."

From Robert Weissman, Public Citizen President:

“The American people understand the corruption of the political system and its consequences. Five years after the Supreme Court handed down the abomination known as Citizens United, we know that our country will not be able to address the great challenges it faces – from putting people to work and raising wages to providing health care to all, from reducing wealth inequality to averting catastrophic climate change, and much more – without ending corporate and super-rich dominance of our elections.”  

For the complete statement, click here.

From Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director:

“On the fifth anniversary of the wrong-headed Citizens United decision, the need to get big money out of our elections couldn’t be greater. U.S. PIRG applauds the reintroduction of critical reform legislation by over a dozen leaders in Congress today, including the Democracy for All Amendment, introduced by Senator Tom Udall, and the Government by the People Act, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes.”

For the complete statement, click here.

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 The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a coalition of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.