Member organizations of the Declaration for American Democracy coalition issued calls for President Biden to state his continued commitment to transforming our democracy as part of his upcoming Joint Address to Congress on April 28, 2021.
We urge President Biden to continue to make progress towards his promise of actualizing policies that create a full, participatory democracy by highlighting in his Joint Address the need to pass the For the People Act. This sweeping package of reforms will get big money out of politics, ensure our freedom to vote, and guarantee that congressional districts are drawn to give fair representation for all.
Member organizations who called on the administration include: Blue Wave Postcard Movement, Center for American Progress, DemCast USA, Democracy Initiative, Demos, Friends of the Earth, Indivisible, People for the American Way, Progressive Turnout Project, and Public Citizen.
In addition, Blue Future, an organization dedicated to building a national youth movement that will inspire, mobilize and invest in young people for a brighter tomorrow, issued an open letter to President Biden to strengthen our democracy, signed by nearly 600 young people across the country.
As the bill continues to advance in the Senate as S.1, now is the time to double down on efforts to realize the true promise of American democracy—a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Recent polling shows that 83% of Americans across the political spectrum say they support the For the People Act. The passage of the For the People Act must be paired with the passage of two other critical bills, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4) and recognizing the District of Columbia as a state (S. 51).
Once the system is un-rigged, the Administration and Congress can finally enact policies on the issues that Americans care most about, like affordable healthcare, a fair minimum wage, clean air and water, racial justice, and so many others.
Highlights from the letters and messages to the administration can be found below:
Blue Future: Open Letter to President Biden from young people nationwide about strengthening our democracy – “During your campaign, you had also expressed support for actualizing policies that create a full, participatory democracy as a first priority in 2021 and beyond. Now is the time to act and build on your long history of fighting to end the dominance of big money in politics and protecting the right to vote by using the bully pulpit of the President to push these reforms forward.”
Blue Wave Postcard Movement: President Biden should state his continued commitment to transforming our democracy and passing the For the People Act in this year’s joint address to Congress – “As President Biden currently confronts a historic set of challenges—carrying us out of a crippling pandemic, rebuilding our economy, advancing racial justice, grappling with climate change, and more—this year’s address at the end of April will serve as a critical moment to chart a new way forward and recommit to democracy reform at the 100-day mark of his administration.”
Center for American Progress: Momentum Grows for Bold Democracy Reform – “Big momentum grows for the For the People Act. And President Biden should continue to help propel this once-in-a-generation legislation forward. One important route: Pres. Biden should use his upcoming address to the joint session of Congress to demand passage.”
Demcast: Biden’s Joint Address Should Include Comprehensive Democracy Reform – “As we all tune in for the State of the Union expected on April 28, we in the grassroots activist community hope that President Biden will make his commitment to transforming our democracy clear. During this unprecedented time, the American people deserve to know that the Biden administration will make the For the People Act a priority.”
Democracy Initiative: President Biden’s Address Must Tackle State of Our Democracy – “Our 75 partner organizations representing 45 million members are united in the understanding that democracy reform is not an end in itself; it is the condition for achieving racial, social, and economic justice and building a better world for us all. The transformational democracy reforms in the For the People Act, together with restoring the Voting Rights Act and granting DC statehood, are required to help pave the way for meaningful progress on racial justice, protecting the climate, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare, and more… As we all tune in for the president’s address on April 28, our coalition expects President Biden will make his commitment to transforming our democracy clear.”
Demos: To Keep His Promises to the Black Community, Pres. Biden Must Prioritize Building an Inclusive Democracy – “President Biden’s oath to “heal the soul of the nation” is a call for unity. However, this dream for a more unified nation cannot be attained without a just democracy where everyone is truly heard. In his upcoming address to a joint session of Congress, the president must speak to the urgent need to build a more inclusive democracy if he is serious about achieving his other priorities and taking the first step along the path of healing that he desires for the country.”
Friends of the Earth: President Biden should urge passage of the For the People Act in his first State of the Union – “…Progress on every issue that Friends of the Earth works on — from climate change, to sustainable farming, to the clean-up of toxic waste — has been and will be hampered without fundamental reforms to our political system. And our democracy is deeply damaged. We need a political system where all voices can be heard…Our planet depends on it.”
Indivisible: Biden should use his first State of the Union address to commit to passing the For the People Act: “President Biden has already shared his support for the For the People Act on social media and in a press release. But the American people need to hear from him directly. And his first State of the Union address is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that, although our democracy has taken a series of pretty devastating body blows over the last four years, there is a solution on the horizon. It’s the For the People Act, and Democrats should stop at nothing to get this bill signed into law.”
People for the American Way: President Biden: Include Democracy Reform in Your Upcoming Joint Session Address – “People For the American Way thanks both the president and vice president for taking a strong stand on behalf of H.R. 1, along with the 220 House members who cast their votes in favor of this historic legislation. As attention shifts to the Senate, the administration must continue to send the message that it’s time to get the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) over the finish line, it having languished for nearly two years in Senator McConnell’s legislative graveyard.”
Progressive Turnout Project: 361 Reasons to Pass the For the People Act (And Counting) – “We urge President Biden to use his April 28 address to make the case for the For the People Act directly to voters. Whatever it takes — yes, including eliminating the filibuster — we must take action now, before it’s too late. Building back better starts with protecting free and fair elections.”
Public Citizen: Biden: Be Vocal on H.R. 1. Now. Our Democracy Can’t Wait! – “The president’s annual joint address to Congress is an American tradition – a seminal moment when the president shares their ideas on solving the nation’s problems and sets course for what must be accomplished in the year ahead….Biden must chart a clear path forward that will restore our faith in democracy. This starts by championing the For the People Act (S.1) during his first State of the Union address and urging its passage.”
What would the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act achieve?
The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act is a bold and transformative legislative package that would create national standards to protect our freedom to vote, get big money out of politics, combat partisan election subversion, and guarantee that congressional districts are drawn to give fair representation for all.
Together we can realize a democracy that represents, reflects, and responds to all of us.
Protects Our Freedom to Vote
- Automatic Voter Registration and Online Voter Registration: Enacts an automatic voter registration system for each state through the state’s motor vehicle agency and ensures voters in all states have access to online voter registration.
- Election Day Holiday: Makes Election Day a public holiday.
- Uniform Early Voting: Ensures voters have access to at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections, including two weekends, while accommodating small election jurisdictions and vote-by-mail jurisdictions.
- Same Day Voter Registration: Ensures every state offers same day registration at a limited number of locations for the 2022 elections and at all polling locations by 2024, allowing election officials, especially in rural areas, time to implement the new requirements.
- Federal Minimum Standards on Vote by Mail and Drop Boxes: Ensures all voters can request a mail-in ballot, improves the delivery of election mail, and puts in place minimum standards to ensure drop boxes are available and accessible to all voters.
- Strengthens Voter List Maintenance Standards: Requires that the removal of voters from the rolls is done on the basis of reliable and objective evidence and prohibits the use of returned mail sent by third parties to remove voters.
- Counting of Provisional Ballots: Requires provisional ballots to count for all eligible races within a county, regardless of the precinct they were cast in.
- Standards for Voter Identification: Promotes voter confidence and access by requiring a uniform national standard for states that requires identification for in-person voting, and allowing voters to present a broad set of identification cards and documents in hard copy and digital form.
- Voting Rights Restoration for Returning Citizens: Restores the right to vote in federal elections for people who have served their time for felony convictions after they are released from prison.
- Expanded Voting Access Protections for the Disabled, Native Americans, Military, Overseas Voters, and Underserved Communities: Includes targeted protections to promote accessible voting to communities facing unique challenges.
Ensures Fair Representation in Government
- Bans Partisan Gerrymandering: Prevents states from adopting congressional maps that unduly favor a political party. Maps will be measured against concrete numerical thresholds for each state, created by political scientists using quantitative metrics of partisan fairness. Courts will also be able to look broadly at the maps and mapmakers’ intent to determine whether they are unduly favoring a political party.
- Strengthens Protections for Communities of Color: By bolstering Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring districts be drawn to represent communities of interest, including communities that share racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Requires States to Adopt Transparent and Fair Processes for Maps: Allows states to enact redistricting plans using their legislature, a commission, or any other entity — provided they hold public hearings, accept public input, adhere to transparency requirements, and explain how final plans adhere to the Voting Rights Act and the ban on partisan gerrymandering.
- Takes Effect Immediately and Applies to All 2022 Maps: Prevents any unfair maps ahead of the 2022 elections, and courts may not allow an illegal map to be used simply because an election is imminent. Any resident may sue their state in federal court for violating the redistricting provisions, and if the court finds the law has been violated, it may either draw a new map or require the state to redraw its map.
Reduces the Influence of Big Money in Politics
- Combatting Secret Money and Election Interference (DISCLOSE Act and Honest Ads Act): Requires super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups, and other organizations spending money in elections to disclose donors and shuts down the use of transfers between organizations to cloak the identity of contributors. Ensures that political ads sold online have the same transparency and disclosure requirements as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.
- State Election Assistance & Innovation Fund: Establishes a self-sustaining fund to finance critical investments in state-led innovations for our democracy and election infrastructure. The fund is financed through an additional assessment paid on federal fines, penalties, and settlements for certain tax crimes and corporate malfeasance. States would be allotted an annual distribution for eligible democracy and election-related investments. States could select to access their full distribution or a partial distribution, or roll over their distribution for future use.
- Nonpartisan Oversight of Federal Election Law: Improves the ability of the Federal Election Commission to carry out oversight and enforcement responsibilities.
- Stopping Illicit Super PAC Coordination: Creates “coordinated spender” category to ensure single-candidate super PACs do not operate as arms of campaigns.
Combats Partisan Election Subversion
- Preventing State Election Subversion: Establishes federal protections to insulate nonpartisan state and local officials who administer federal elections from undue partisan interference or control.
- Protection of Election Records, Election Infrastructure, and Ballot Tabulation: Strengthens protections for federal election records and election infrastructure in order to protect the integrity and security of ballots and voting systems.
- Voter-Verified Paper Ballots, Reliable Audits, and Voting System Upgrades: Requires states to use voting systems that use paper ballots that can be verified by voters and to implement reliable post-election audits. Also provides grants for states to purchase new and more secure voting systems and make cybersecurity improvements.
- Non-Partisan Election Official Recruitment and Training: Tasks the Election Assistance Commission with developing model training programs to recruit a new generation of election workers and provides dedicated grants for training and recruitment.
- Comprehensive Voting System Security Protections: Puts in place election vendor cybersecurity standards, including standards for manufacturing and assembling voting machines, among other key security measures.
- Establishing Duty to Report Foreign Election Interference: Creates a reporting requirement for federal campaigns to disclose certain foreign contacts.
What is the Declaration for American Democracy?
A Coalition of 250+ Member Organizations
The Declaration for American Democracy is an anti-oppression coalition working together to make the promise of democracy real for all of us.
We believe our democratic systems, institutions, and leaders must reflect, represent, and respect the diverse, multicultural nation that we are and have always been. For democracy to work for all of us, it must include all of us and address the deep systemic, institutional challenges that continue to block meaningful progress to this day. As America’s diversity continues to grow, so must our democracy.
Today our democracy faces crises on multiple fronts -- compounded by a deeply problematic history that has held us back from achieving an inclusive and equitable multiracial nation since our founding. Powerful corporations and wealthy special interests use their money and influence to shape public policy priorities. Extremist politicians are putting up deliberate barriers to block access to the ballot box and silence the voices of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, AAPI, low-income, LGBTQIA, disability, and other marginalized communities. State legislatures are manipulating Congressional maps to allow politicians to pick their voters and hoard power for their political parties. And our government has failed to respond after four years of a corrupt administration and Supreme Court decisions gutting voting rights protections and anti-corruption laws.
Working together, we are committed to passing national standards, including the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and DC Statehood, to transform our political system and move our country closer to realizing the true promise of democracy. However, we will not be satisfied with any single reform and will continue to press for the structural changes necessary to rebalance power for the people and undo the historic harms that have barred communities that have been marginalized and denied political power since the founding of the United States.
We believe people of color, young people, people with disabilities, language minorities, and other historically disenfranchised communities should have equal access to the ballot and be equitably represented in government. We believe everyday people should have a stronger voice in elections than wealthy donors and special interests. And we believe our government should be transparent and accountable to the people.
Together we must ensure the freedom to vote is a fundamental American right and that the people -- regardless of our color, our background, or our zip code - hold the power, not the wealthy and corporations.
Therefore, we, the Declaration for American Democracy, are committed to working together to achieve this vision and model our values in how we work together. As a coalition, we will invest in each other and treat each other with respect. We will acknowledge and learn from our past, including the legacy of racism and white supremacy in our movement and democratic institutions. In decision making we will center Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, AAPI, LGBTQIA, people with disabilities, language minorities, as well as other impacted communities. And we will invest in each other through professional development, collaborative grantmaking, and shared projects.