We are deeply grateful and I’m pleased to share this brief look at what we were able to accomplish in 2019 thanks to you.
We’re reaching the end of one momentous year and the beginning of another. Since our founding in 2000, Dēmos has worked to make sure American democracy lives up to its promise of justice and equality for everyone. Now we are in a street fight for the heart and soul of our democracy, facing a generation-defining crossroads in the year ahead, and we at Dēmos have been on the frontlines of this fight. To all those who have made our work possible, we are deeply grateful and I’m pleased to share this brief look at what we were able to accomplish in 2019 thanks to you.
Our legal team went to court to block right-wing efforts to stop citizens from voting—particularly Black and brown people.
The right wing has figured out that the best way to win elections is to stop citizens from voting—particularly Black and brown people. In 2019, our crack legal team went to court to block these efforts.
In Indiana, Dēmos and partners won an injunction that stops the state from implementing a new law that would permit local authorities to cancel the registrations of voters—without notice or confirmation—based on a database program known to be thoroughly unreliable. In Texas, our legal team helped file a successful lawsuit that prevented the state from purging thousands of eligible naturalized citizens from the voting rolls—and working with our grassroots partners, we helped force the resignation of the Texas Secretary of State, holding him accountable for his efforts to suppress the vote. In New Mexico, Dēmos worked with our partners to create a coalition that won the right to same-day voter registration, making New Mexico the 18th state to dispense with registration deadlines that served as a barrier to voter participation.
In Florida, we provided legal support to SEIU 1199 United Healthcare Workers East to successfully defend Broward County from a right-wing group's attempt to bully the county into aggressively purging voters. Statewide, we won a case to ensure that bilingual ballots, voting materials, and assistance will be provided to eligible voters who were educated in Spanish (e.g., citizens from Puerto Rico) for the 2020 presidential election.
You may recall that in 2018, Dēmos provided campaign support to grassroots groups in Florida who achieved an astonishing expansion of democracy by winning a ballot measure that restored the right to vote to about 1.4 million returning citizens. In 2019 the state legislature tried to overturn the will of the people by requiring the newly enfranchised citizens to pay all government fees and fines—tens of thousands of dollars in many cases—before they could vote. Dēmos represented the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and made sure to center the voices of directly impacted people in federal litigation over rights restoration.
Real change comes from the bottom up.
At Dēmos we know that lawsuits and great policy ideas alone are not enough to build a more inclusive democracy. Real change comes from the bottom up. That is why we are so committed to growing the power and voice of grassroots organizations working in Black and brown communities to build transformative movements to reform our democracy. Through our Inclusive Democracy Project we support a cohort of 40 grassroots leaders—36 are people of color and the majority are women. We provide critical technical assistance, policy design, and strategic support to fight for and win democracy reforms in 15 states and the District of Columbia. But more importantly, through the Inclusive Democracy Project we have helped build a truly bottom-up democracy reform infrastructure that centers racial equity and the voices of people closest to the problems that need to be solved.
Dēmos was instrumental in shaping many of the transformative policy ideas incorporated into H.R. 1, the first bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this year. H.R. 1 calls for reducing the influence of money in politics and strengthening ethics rules, among many other elements that seek to combat injustice and address the growing crisis in our democracy. Dēmos staff testified before Congress about H.R. 1, and were invited to speak at the press conference introducing the bill.
Dēmos is on the leading edge in creating and advancing the concept of debt-free college. Our proposal calls for a federal-state partnership to increase public investment in higher education and ensure that the most diverse generation of students in American history can graduate from 2- or 4-year public colleges with no debt. Because our approach focuses on reducing student debt—a burden borne disproportionately by people of color—it lives up to our commitment to closing the racial wealth gap. Dēmos’ proposals are now at the heart of the 2020 policy debate, and our team helped craft the Debt-Free College Act, which was reintroduced in Congress in 2019.
This year we released a groundbreaking report proposing a publicly-run credit registry that would gradually replace the current for-profit corporate system of credit scoring. Dēmos’ initiative serves consumer needs and equity concerns rather than the corporate bottom line, and seeks to diminish the impact of past discrimination. And Dēmos played a key role in passing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in New York State in 2019, a model for equity-centered climate policy that other states, and the nation, can adopt.
Thank you for continuing to share a progressive vision, and for supporting Dēmos.
The coming year will be one of the most consequential turning points in our country’s history. Dēmos is determined to bring our cutting-edge research and policy expertise, our relationships with grassroots partners and national allies, and our legal prowess into the fight to build a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy—an American dream for the 21st century. Thank you for continuing to share a progressive vision, and for supporting Dēmos and the work we can—and must—do together. The future is in our hands.
K. Sabeel Rahman