This summer, the Democracy Initiative continued to fight for our democracy and engage activists around the country to stand up for our future. The stakes have never been higher as powerful interests are spending unprecedented amounts in campaign contributions and the health of our voting rights remains tenuous in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and new laws implemented since the last election that circumscribe the ability of many to vote.
Anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder and the Voting Rights Amendment Act
June 25th marked the one year anniversary of Shelby Co. v. Holder, in which the Roberts Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that protected voters in places with a history and record of voting discrimination, ruling that Congress must update the law to protect citizens' right to vote.
Introduced earlier this year, the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R. 3899 and S. 1495) seeks to update the VRA, but so far has received limited support from members of Congress. Seeking to build support, Democracy Initiative allies participated in a rally on the Capitol grounds following the Senate hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). This was the first and only hearing the voting rights legislation has received so far.
Democracy Initiative organizations including CWA, NAACP, AFT, Sierra Club, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP LDF, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Alliance for Justice and US Student Association participated in the rally and heard from members including House Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about the need for national action to protect voting rights.
Throughout June and July, the Democracy Initiative also mobilized citizens to contact their elected leaders to urge passage of the VRAA. With the help of the NAACP, NAACP National Voter Fund, and the Communications Workers of America, the Democracy Initiative was able to organize nearly 1,200 local activists and concerned voters to call the offices of Senators Thad Cochran (R-MI) and Dean Heller (R-NV), in addition to Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Doug Collins (R-GA), urging them to pass the VRAA.
The Democracy Initiative organized a Thunderclap on the anniversary of the Shelby County decision with the message: “Now is the time for Congress to fix the VRA and protect our right to vote!” That message was sent by more than 100 supporters and reached 638,754 individuals across the country.
Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s erosion of long-standing laws to regulate money in politics, the Democracy Initiative is working to build nationwide support for a proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress the renewed authority to regulate the ever increasing amount of money flooding our political process.
Democracy Initiative partners, led by Public Citizen, People for the American Way, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and others have galvanized grassroots support across the country by organizing around recent Senate hearings with rallies, in-district meetings with Members of Congress, and an editorial and letter writing campaign nationwide featuring pieces authored by leading progressives. The Democracy Initiative is also working with the coalition to amplify unusual voices in support of reform. Recent op-eds have been featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roanoke Times, Springfield News-Leader, Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel, Los Angeles Daily News, Portland Press-Herald, and Roll Call among many others.
This campaign unites Americans around that central idea that this is a democracy of, by and for the people, and that all our voices should be heard.
Democracy Initiative Panel at the CWA Legislative Conference
This May, CWA hosted their 2014 Legislative-Political and Movement Building Conference in Washington, DC to strategize about how we move forward together on the issues we care about and were joined by CWA activists, leaders, and partners from 42 organizations.
More than 100 participants from partner groups and more than 500 CWA members attended the conference, spoke on the issues, and helped present at 17 workshops, including a panel hosted by the Democracy Initiative, “Redistricting and the National Popular Vote.” The Democracy Initiative’s Executive Director Marissa Brown moderated the panel featuring Dan Vicuña, Common Cause National Redistricting Coordinator, Scott Drexel, National Popular Vote Consultant, and Adam Lioz, Demos Counsel.
The panel discussed redistricting, the implications of the electoral college system, and the current system of registration and voting in addition to proposed solutions to make the U.S. more democratic, such as redistricting reform, the national popular vote initiative, and voting modernization.
Delaware Same Day Voting Registration Campaignsame day voting registration in Delaware, an effort to allow Delawareans the right to register to vote on the same day as a primary or general election. This voting rights effort nearly succeeded, falling short by just a few votes before the state House and Senate adjourned for the year.
Bringing together its allies and partners, the Democracy Initiative organized lobby visits to Delaware elected officials, brought supporters to rallies and events, and sent a letter signed by 22 organizations urging Delaware officials to expand voting rights to its residents. Additionally, the Democracy Initiative urged partner organizations to have their local members personally call their state representatives to support same day registration, resulting in hundreds of calls and strong show of support. Although this bill did not ultimately pass, the campaign will resume in full force next year when Delaware’s House and Senate return for the 2015 legislative session
National Commission on Voting RightsNational Commission on Voting Rights (NCVR), organized by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrapped up its series of 25 state and regional hearings. The NCVR set out to learn about racial voting discrimination and election administration issues. At the panel’s final hearing in Ohio this May, the Democracy Initiative’s Greg Moore highlighted the history of voter suppression efforts in Ohio and the right to referendum that is allowed under Ohio state law. The panel recently released a report documenting the the national record of voting discrimination since 1995. The report findings include that “Voting discrimination is a frequent and ongoing problem in the United States.” Click here to read the comprehensive report, Protecting Minority Voters: Our Work is Not Done. The panel expects to release a report documenting issues with election administration in September.
The Fix the Senate Now Coalition, a project of the Democracy Initiative, has continued its work on Senate rules reform, advocating for sensible changes to the rules governing the U.S. Senate to end gridlock and allow the institution to meet some of our country’s greatest challenges. The changes made to Senate rules at end of last year have enabled the Senate to finally confirm several judicial nominees, but several executive branch nominees remain caught in the gridlock that marks this Senate as one of the least productive in history.
Check out some of our work below:
Thank you again for supporting the Democracy Initiative and reading our newsletter. Feel free pass this on to anyone who may be interested in our work. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to receive the DI Reportin your inbox.