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Democracy that Works for All of Us: The Democracy Initiative

Democracy that works for all of usOne year ago, on Dec. 10, 2012, International Human Rights Day, CWA, Sierra Club, Greenpeace and NAACP launched the Democracy Initiative. Since then, other large membership organizations have signed on, representing 20 million activists.

The Democracy Initiative is focused on three of our four democracy blocks: voting rights, money in politics, and Senate rules reform.

Senate Rules

CWA and Fix the Senate Now coalition members, a project of the Democracy Initiative, have pushed hard to end obstruction and gridlock in the U.S. Senate and gain reform of the Senate rules.

We won a big victory this past summer, with the confirmation of a fully functioning five-member National Labor Relations Board and leaders for other key agencies, including Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The Republican minority made no secret of the fact that it didn't want the new financial agency to be able to effectively safeguard consumers' rights; in fact, Republicans didn't want the agency to exist at all.

This summer, our coalition mobilized 2 million activists to contact their Senators to get these nominations through.

In November, mobilization by members of all our organizations resulted in an even bigger win: a change in Senate procedure that means executive and most judicial nominations will be confirmed by majority vote, not the 60 vote supermajority that has been blocking President Obama's nominations for the past five years. [Read more on page 8.]

Voting Rights

Moral Mondays, led by the NAACP in North Carolina, are demonstrating the power of a broad coalition around voting rights and other democracy issues.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court's Shelby decision in June 2013, which struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, many states have been working overtime to restrict voting rights.

Map: Restrictive Voting Legislation

The Brennan Center for Justice, which closely follows changes and attempted changes in voting laws, released a list earlier this month of what's been happening in the year since the 2012 presidential election. Among the findings:

  • At least 90 restrictive bills have been introduced in 33 states.

  • 18 of those bills are still pending in seven states.

  • Eight states have already passed nine restrictive bills this session.

North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and other states are looking at new restrictions on voting, including limiting early voting, restricting students from voting in the state they're attending school and other measures aimed at stopping citizens from voting.

We need a system of universal registration in the United States, similar to what most other democracies have.

Money in Politics

The U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates to limitless corporate contributions and secret money in elections. During the 2012 election cycle, candidates, parties and outside groups spent $7 billion.

Citizens United also overturned laws prohibiting employers from forcing employees to listen to their political views. Corporations are not people and shouldn't be extended the rights of individuals.

To get rid of this pervasive and corrupting influence of money in politics, elected officials at every level are looking at ways to provide for public financing of candidates.

In New York's state legislature this year, we came close to passing a state public financing law that would have encouraged candidates to seek small donations with public matching funds.

The Democracy Initiative also links national organizations to both state and federal reform efforts. All organizations don't necessarily work on all the campaigns, but do share a broad commitment to breaking through the blocks to democracy to gain economic justice and democracy for all.

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