A Year of Challenges and Triumphs
Congress: On the Cusp of an Historic Victory and an Infrastructure Win for Democracy
- Successfully advocated for House passage of the For the People Act (HR 1), the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 4), the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (HR 51), the Protecting Our Democracy Act (HR 5314), and legislation to create both an independent commission and a House select committee to investigate the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.
- Helped lead the outside effort and supported the Senate as they’ve had four votes in recent months in which all 50 Senate Democrats have voted to advance major voting rights legislation: the For the People Act (twice), the Freedom to Vote Act, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
- Helped support passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill (HR 3684), which contained $65 billion in broadband funding.
Voting & Elections
- Played a lead role in coalition efforts to defeat anti-voter laws across the country, and successfully removed some of the worst provisions from these bills.
- Filed lawsuits seeking to overturn new anti-voter laws in Texas, Georgia, and Florida, and protect infringements into the privacy of voters in Pennsylvania.
- Filed a complaint calling for a Department of Justice investigation of Trump interference in Georgia vote counting.
- Led campaigns to enfranchise people on parole in Connecticut and New York, and adopt Automatic Voter Registration in Connecticut, Delaware, and Hawaii .
Redistricting & Representation
- Filed lawsuits in Minnesota and Texas and a brief in Colorado to give people of color a voice in redistricting. Filed a lawsuit in North Carolina to challenge partisan gerrymandering.
- After Common Cause and our co-plaintiffs filed the first challenge to the Trump administration’s effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the congressional apportionment count, President Biden issued an executive order reversing this policy on his first day in office.
- Led the CHARGE coalition of nine national organizations to train hundreds of activists and grassroots organizations to participate in the redistricting process, and developed a series of materials in many languages to teach communities the basics of redistricting.
- Successfully advocated for the creation of a citizens advisory redistricting committee in New Mexico to take public input and draw the first draft of the state’s congressional and state legislative districts.
- Led reforms to end prison gerrymandering in Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to stop counting incarcerated people at the location of the prison instead of their home community, which disproportionately empowers rural, white voters at the expense of communities of color.
Money in Politics & Ethics
- Secured significant ethics and accountability victories from the Biden administration on day one, including a very strong ethics executive order.
- Filed campaign finance complaints against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and state legislators in Connecticut, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.
- Filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene violated the soft money ban of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by soliciting unlimited contributions for a Super PAC.
- I testified before Congress in the House Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about constitutional means to prevent abuse of the clemency power. My testimony focused on the importance of understanding executive clemency in the context of broader problems in the American criminal legal system.
Media & Democracy
- Filed a petition for reconsideration before the FCC urging the agency to reverse the repeal of net neutrality from the prior administration.
- Filed comments before the FCC urging the agency to strengthen media ownership rules and promote diversity in media ownership. As local media continue to decline economically, we are continuing to work with coalition partners to develop strategies that can sustain local news outlets.
- In November, Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure package, which includes $65 billion for broadband access. Common Cause played a key role in ensuring that broadband funding adequately addresses disparities in broadband deployment, affordability, and digital inclusion.
- When it was discovered that Facebook was allowing former President Trump’s political action committee (PAC) to continue running ads and posting content despite the banning of Trump himself, Common Cause helped submit over 117,000 signatures to Facebook demanding it act.
So much of our success at Common Cause starts at the local and state level. Many of the solutions in the Freedom to Vote Act are laws we helped pass locally, implement strategically, and prove they work in an electoral or legislative environment so that they are now ready to be taken to scale as part of historic federal legislation.
- Launched a new California Media & Democracy Program aimed at finding state-level policy solutions that can reverse the decline of local and ethnic media in California.
- Watchdogged local redistricting processes in cities and counties across California, with nearly 30 actions and victories that have made local redistricting more transparent, accessible, and community driven. Created a suite of resources, materials, tools, and trainings that community members and community-based organizations across the state are using to educate, empower, and activate in local redistricting processes.
- Took over leadership of the Bay Area Political Equality Collaborative, a diverse group of stakeholders pushing to pass democracy vouchers in Oakland in 2022 and exploring public financing solutions across the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Published a report, “Golden State Democracy: How California Expanded Voter Access During a Pandemic,” to share the story of how California prepared for the 2020 general election and increased turnout during the pandemic.
- Continued our Student Organizing Series, with 75 students of diverse backgrounds participating in our online training series to grow skills and bring new leaders into the democracy movement.
- Organized and led a diverse coalition of over 30 organizations to pass the Ballot Access for All Citizens Act which dramatically increases the number of counties that will offer ballot materials translated into languages other than English and creates a language access hotline. This legislation will expand ballot access to over 80 thousand eligible Coloradans.
- Organized and advocated for fair maps throughout the redistricting process. We hosted 68 community redistricting meetings with over 1,200 Coloradans and drove hundreds of public comments and dozens of public testimonies to our two independent redistricting commissions.
- Filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court challenging the final Congressional map.
- Fought off an onslaught of dangerous bills that would have damaged Colorado’s democracy and tarnished our Gold Standard Voting and Election laws.
- Passed historic voting rights legislation as part of budget implementation bill, including Automatic Voter Registration, restoring voting freedom for people on parole, online absentee, ballot applications, permanent use of drop boxes to return ballots, and more; sending constitutional amendment on early voting to 2022 ballot.
- Ended prison gerrymandering in Connecticut.
- Passed bill making Connecticut the first state in the nation to make prison phone calls free.
- Automatic Voter Registration passed and signed into law.
- Bill attacking access to FOIA blocked.
- Pressure on General Assembly produced the most public and participatory redistricting process ever — with communities of interest considered for first time, website created, and public hearings held.
- Constitutional amendment that would make it harder to establish independent redistricting process tabled.
- Senator Tom Carper persuaded to come out publicly for filibuster reform to pass voting rights bills.
- Expanded Election Protection program to cover 96 counties. Worked with subgrantee coalition partners to place 150 poll monitors across the state during municipal elections.
- Sued to stop new barriers to voting created by SB 202, as plaintiff in challenge brought by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
- Passed local resolutions urging transparency in the redistricting process in Clayton and Gwinnett counties, and in the City of Clarkston.
- Conducted grassroots action campaign to help bridge “digital divide” by encouraging participation in federal “Emergency Broadband Benefit” program.
- Drafted an ordinance to prohibit pay-to-play political contributions in Atlanta.
- As a steering member, helped lead coalition workgroups on election political violence, election administration, and election protection.
- Coordinated effort by 150 small business owners to endorse federal pro-voter legislation.
- Managed coalition of 16 grassroots organizations urging amendment of state’s Open Meeting Law to cover Legislature and committee activities.
- Passed Automatic Voter Registration and signed into law.
- Passed improvements to existing VBM law such as requiring those on probation and parole to be informed of how to register to vote and how to vote and identification of where to site and number of voter service centers and drop boxes.
- Passed pension forfeiture for government employees who are convicted of committing job related felonies and signed into law.
- Passed changes to our existing Sunshine Law to allow for remote testimony.
- Passed 12 month cooling off period for department heads and legislators who leave their positions and signed into law.
- Defeated bill to build which would reduce access to the State Capitol via enhanced security measures after January 6th.
- Defeated resolution calling for Article V Constitutional Convention.
- Won at the Hawaii State Supreme Court a lawsuit declaring a bill passed by the legislature’s use of the Gut and Replace practice unconstitutional.
- Convinced the State Office of Elections and County Clerks to provide notice of translation services in Chinese and Ilocano to all counties and not just the City and County of Honolulu, as required by the Voting Rights Act.
- Chaired the state’s nonpartisan voting rights coalition and led a successful grassroots/grasstops campaign around expanding ballot accessibility, a permanent vote by mail list option and the expansion of polling places at county jails.
- Ended prison gerrymandering in Illinois and advised state agencies on implementation issues for the 2030 redistricting cycle.
- Virtually hosted the 24 high-school and college students who participated in our LeadershipSix Internship program, a rigorous 12-week program that emphasizes leadership development and launching policy advocacy campaigns.
- Negotiated a successful settlement to our lawsuit against the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois State Board of Elections over their failure to comply with our Automatic Voter Registration statute, ensuring improved language access for Illinois voters and mandating community involvement in the oversight of the program.
- Testified or participated in over 85 redistricting hearing at the state, county and municipal levels and led the opposition to the state’s failure to draw maps using data from the decennial census.
- Created a parallel redistricting process that was led by a Citizens Redistricting Commission and that featured a mapping competition that generated 60 voter-drawn maps.
- Killed a bill that would have required people registering to vote to prove their citizenship.
- Won a lawsuit that will prohibit the state of Indiana from purging voters without the notice and waiting period required under federal law.
- Strengthened our mail-in voting process: permanent ballot list, secure and accessible drop boxes, and usability testing and plain language for all mail voting materials.
- Expanded access to early voting: providing all jurisdictions with 1-2 more vote centers and a 2-hour earlier opening time during gubernatorial elections.
- Modernized and funded the Fair Campaign Financing Fund, small donor public financing program available to gubernatorial candidates.
- Improved our Public Information Act (PIA): expanding the Compliance Board’s jurisdiction to handle disputes and ensuring complaint files of police misconduct are covered by the PIA.
- Supported efforts to ensure eligible incarcerated voters have meaningful access to voting and voter information, including drop boxes are certain correctional facilities and reporting after each election cycle. We also passed legislation requiring all state campuses to designate a vote coordinator and develop a plan for voter education.
- Defeated efforts to reinstate prison-based gerrymandered and averted dangerous call for a constitutional convention.
- Following a successful local ballot measure, we served on the Baltimore County Fair Election Fund Work Group. We expect to pass legislation implementing the local public financing program this year. Both the Montgomery County and Howard County programs are in use, and we are monitoring and helping to support candidates who are opting into the system.
- Our Executive Director served on the Baltimore City Comptroller’s transition team, helping to create his ethics and transparency section of his report. She was also recently appointed to the Baltimore County Ethics and Accountability Commission.
- Advanced legislation (VOTES Act) which includes vote by mail, extended early voting, same-day registration, jail-based voting, back-end AVR, risk-limiting audits, and ERIC. Bill was passed out of committee, passed in the Senate, and is pending before the House.
- Organized over 100+ grassroots endorsements of the legislation including labor unions, faith-based groups, statewide and local advocacy groups across the Commonwealth.
- Successfully advocated for an accessible and transparent and more equitable redistricting process along with the Drawing Democracy Coalition, where we served on the Steering Committee. Our work resulted in 33 majority minority districts in the House (up from 20) and six majority minority districts in the Senate (up front three) along with dozens of hearings, significant community engagement, and an open, fair process.
- Impeded anti-voter legislation in the House that would have introduced harsh voter ID laws and reduced access to absentee voting, including co-hosting a webinar with SOS Jocelyn Benson, encouraging watchers to call their reps.
- Organized over 45 volunteers on election day to go into polling places and challenge any attempts to prevent Michiganders from exercising the right to vote.
- Coordinated with Michigan’s Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission to ensure strong public participation in open hearings.
- Delivered testimony to commission on redistricting process and the importance of fair maps.
- Successfully filed a historic legal intervenor in Minnesota’s redistricting process that for the first time in state history represents disenfranchised, Indigenous and Minnesotans of Color as equal stakeholders in the litigation process.
- Reached a redistricting reform milestone when successfully moved the Court’s Special Redistricting Panel to give Communities of Interest higher priority in its set of redistricting principles applied to maps it may have to draw should the Minnesota Legislature fail to move bipartisan maps that survive Governor Walz’s veto. Minnesota Courts have stepped in to draw maps for the past 7 decades.
- Successfully filed grassroots driven and community focused redistricting maps as part of the ongoing litigation in Minnesota. These maps culminated four years of grassroots mobilization of Indigenous and Minnesotans of Color across the state. With allies and other stakeholders, we sought to demonstrate that when the process is given to constituents, all Minnesotans are equitably and fairly captured in their districts. Our grassroots unity maps are the first ever formally filed as part of redistricting litigation in Minnesota’s redistricting history.
- Having forced both the Court and the Minnesota House to move closer toward our reform redistricting principles and affording higher priority to communities of interest while droppingor giving less priorities to principles that favor parties or incumbents has permanently moved the needle in favor of voter-focused community-centered maps and is a major win in Minnesota.
- Created a report entitled “Lobbyist Spending: Nebraska’s Other Pandemic Thrives During COVID-19,” to expose the state’s robust lobbying activities.
- Organized a coalition of grassroots organizations to advocate for fair redistricting and helped. create the most publicly engaged redistricting process in decades.
- Defeated an Article V Convention of States resolution.
- Passed legislation to expand our state’s public financing program for lower court judges, first state in the nation with this program for District Court level judiciary.
- Passed legislation to create NM’s Citizen Redistricting Commission with a coalition of community groups and the League of Women Voters.
- Coordinated with the Citizens Redistricting Commission to ensure robust public participation in state-wide hearings.
- Delivered testimony to CRC on the redistricting process and the importance of fair maps.
- Killed legislation that was introduced that sought to roll back provisions of our current Same Day Voter Registration laws and deadlines.
- Fought hard against prison gerrymandering in the redistricting process and gained support from the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
- Launched a public education website for RCV resources and information in NM: rcvnm.org.
- Ensured that provisions were put in place to accommodate citizen’s testimony during an all-remote legislative session and enhance transparency for the public.
- Worked with and supported NM’s Nations, Tribes and Pueblos to pass Tribal Voting Rights legislation to add protections and polling locations to our indigenous communities and ensure greater access to the ballot by those community members.
- Supported legislation that added transparency to capital outlay allocations by the legislature.
- Successfully held the largest Ranked Choice Voting election in the US. Our massive citywide voter education campaign prepared New York City voters, in thirteen languages, for Ranked Choice Voting by partnering with 700+ organizations reaching over a million New Yorkers.
- Blocked the certification of the ExpressVote XL, an insecure and hackable touch screen voting machine, for use in New York elections.
- Drove the New York conversation around national voting standards with the Freedom to Vote Act (previously the For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, helping local activists pass 13 resolutions of support for these bills in key areas of the state.
- Hosted five workshops for grassroots activists and partners on testifying at redistricting hearings around the state with over 300 attendees and dozens of activists providing feedback to the New York Redistricting Commission.
- Held dozens of redistricting community workshops throughout the state to educate and engage residents in redistricting.
- Helped stop a partisan attempt by the legislature to close the grace period for receiving absentee ballots by mail.
- Produced nonpartisan voter guides for local elections in North Carolina.
- Celebrated the 15th anniversary of our successful HBCU Student Action Alliance, as we continue to empower outstanding student leaders at North Carolina’s 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- Filed suit in state court challenging the NC legislature’s redistricting failures.
- Helped organize volunteers who distributed 7,000 Fair Districts yard signs.
- Printed and distributed 80,000 Fair Districts postcards. The postcards were then sent by advocates to the Ohio Redistricting Commission members and state legislators. In final months of congressional mapmaking, postcards were sent to targeted voters in legislative leaders’ communities.
- Organized the Fair Districts Mapping Competition to highlight maps that met the criteria of compactness, proportionality, competitiveness, and keeping communities together. More than 200 people participated in the competition and Catherine Turcer testified about the winning congressional maps before the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Winners also testified about their maps before the commission and in legislative hearings.
- Organized the Fair Districts Speakers Bureau which provided 265 presentations to 5,376 participants about redistricting so far this year.
- Helped coordinate twenty events including Fair Maps Day and Picket to Protest –with 1,243 participants– at the Ohio Statehouse this year.
- On redistricting, ushered in Oregon’s most publicly engaged redistricting ever (having previously passed legislation to require public input in the process), joining forces and assisting those working to lift underrepresented voices.
- On money in politics, stopped a deeply flawed bill at the legislature, then helped steward months of intensive coalition building and policy development.
- On voting & elections, helped pass legislation to simplify the return of mailed ballots and to prohibit disinformation about when and where to vote.
- On equitable government, supported legislation that will ensure multi-lingual voting materials and interpretation services at the legislature, require government agencies to engage impacted populations in rulemaking and implementation of laws, and provide per diem compensation to make that possible.
- With partner organizations, intervened in lawsuit to prevent release of voters’ personal information as part of sham election review.
- Helped convene and lead working group that has come close to eliminating a constitutional amendment creating judicial districts.
- Helped stop several voter restriction bills designed to roll back reforms (VBM, extended deadlines) that were made in 2019.
- Started an educational webinar series designed to make democracy more approachable and easily understood.
- Begun convening statewide advocacy organizations to create a process for message development.
- Retained our second congressional district despite projections that we would be an at-large state for the first time since 1789.
- Successfully fought off an attempt to expand internet voting.
- Coordinated coalition of 20+ grassroots organizations urging greater transparency in redistricting process.
- Joined the successful defense of state political spending transparency laws, which were upheld by Federal Appeals Court.
- Created coalition of organizations working to end prison gerrymandering.
- Killed most of the very worst provisions originally in Governor Abbott’s omnibus voter suppression legislation (SB1), including a number related to empowering poll watchers in extremely dangerous ways. And fought like hell to keep the entire bill from passing until finally Abbott got parts of his original bills passed in a 3rd special session, after which we immediately sued him.
- Organized Voting Rights Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol, where hundreds of Texans join Common Cause Texas and over 30 partners to lobby elected officials. Photos, pin 3202.
- Released a video of a GOP “Election Integrity Brigade” virtual launch where detail plans to build an army of poll watchers who will have the “courage” to attack Harris County’s historic Black and Brown neighborhoods. The video went viral on twitter and was highly referenced by partners and activists as evidence for why the poll watcher provisions of SB1 were dangerous.
- Grew the Texas Election Reform Coalition (TERC) to over 180 members strong.
- Helped lead the effort to stop more than 25 voter suppression measures from being enacted into law. The measures would have made absentee voting more difficult, made it more difficult for people with disabilities or nursing home residents to vote, restricted the number of drop boxes and prevented election clerks from being able to make simple corrections to the addresses of absentee ballot witnesses so that those ballots could be counted. CCWI generated more than 6,000 letters to the Wisconsin Legislature and to Gov. Evers on these bills.
- Advanced public support for redistricting reform legislation for Wisconsin based on Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process. Helped launch the bipartisan legislation and held Wisconsin’s largest virtual “town hall” webinar with the bill’s main sponsors attracting over 300 registrants.
- Is on track to have its best state fundraising year ever, bringing in over $90,000 from individual donors and over $100,000 in foundation support for CCWI.
Common Cause helps frame the issue we work on by sharing our expertise in reports that often pull together many strands of an issue and weave them together in a coherent narrative that helps people understand the complexity of public policy and provides media with a comprehensive primer on all manner of democracy issues.
- As a Matter of Fact: The Harms Caused by Election Disinformation
- Broadband Gatekeepers: How ISP Lobbying and Political Influence Impacts the Digital Divide
- Runaway Redistricting: How the Rush to Redistrict Can Leave Communities Behind
- Golden State Democracy: How California Expanded Voter Access during a Pandemic
- Trending in the Wrong Direction: Social Media Platforms Declining Enforcement of Election Disinformation
- Lobbyist Spending: Nebraska’s Other Pandemic Thrives during COVID-19