Democracy has certainly faced some threats recently, but it isn’t all bad news. Around the country, courageous people have worked to defend democracy at the state level. Here are three inspiring stories from that work to remind us all that democracy still has defenders and that progress is possible.
Minnesota Joins National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
On May 24th Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law a bill that leads Minnesota to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact will ensure that whoever wins the national popular vote gets elected as President of the United States. The measure that passed in Minnesota was included and passed as part of the State Government and Elections Omnibus bill. Minnesota is now the 17th jurisdiction in the nation to pass the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, representing 205 of the 270 electoral votes required for the Compact to take effect.
Over the course of the last several months leading up to this significant victory, People For the American Way engaged our thousands of members in Minnesota to drive calls into the legislature in support of the NPV legislation in the House and Senate. We participated in weekly strategy calls with partners, participated in key campaign spike moments, and signed onto letters of support delivered to state legislators.
During this time we also engaged our members nationally to raise awareness and generate support for NPV more broadly. To that end, on April 4th, People For the American Way President Svante Myrick participated in a virtual roundtable event hosted by Making Every Vote Count on different strategies for addressing the challenges presented by the Electoral College, where he focused his remarks on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and flagged the work happening in Minnesota. The event was moderated by EJ Dionne from the Washington Post, and Svante’s co-panelists included Trevor Potter from the Campaign Legal Center and Alex Keyssar from the Harvard Kennedy School.
People For the American Way continues to lead on this issue and engage with partners to advance the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in other states, including in Michigan where there is an opportunity for another potential legislative victory this year.
Democracy For the People Act Signed into Law in Minnesota
On May 5th Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota signed into law the Democracy For the People Act, following its passage in both the House and Senate in recent weeks. This bill includes a sweeping set of campaign finance and voting rights reforms and provides a model for comprehensive democracy reform that other states can follow. This victory came as the result of a monthslong mobilization of activists on the ground, which People For the American Way was engaged in with our thousands of members in Minnesota. The effort was led by the state-based We Choose Us coalition, a network of grassroots organizations, unions, and advocacy groups fighting for a more representative democracy.
In addition to engaging and mobilizing our members in the state, we were able to play a central role in mobilizing another national coalition, the Declaration For American Democracy (DFAD), to direct resources and attention from national partners, many of whom have members in MN, to engage in this important state-level effort. Beyond just mobilizing in-kind contributions from partners, as members of the DFAD steering committee we also helped facilitate a subgrant of $60,000 to support passage of the Democracy For the People Act.
New York Fair Elections Public Financing Program Fully Funded
On May 2nd the state of New York officially finalized their budget, which among other things, fully funds the NY Fair Elections program that had been passed by voters in 2019. The future of the program had been in jeopardy, as for a period of time it was unclear whether the legislature would ultimately decide to allocate the funding necessary to ensure the full functionality of the program. But after a monthslong effort from People For the American Way and our partners, the final budget that was passed includes the funding needed to sustain the program and has laid the groundwork for candidates to run competitive campaigns for office without having to cozy up to big donors.
People For the American Way President Svante Myrick, a former NY elected official himself, published an op ed in the NY Daily News calling for the program to be fully funded just days before the negotiations were finally completed. Additionally, People For the American Way drove multiple rounds of calls into the state legislature from our members in New York, as well as engaged in a grass tops lobbying effort to influence key decision makers. Now that the program is fully funded without delay, we will pivot our efforts into ensuring that candidates in New York utilize the Fair Elections program and demonstrate the efficacy of small-donor driven elections.