Six of the most influential democracy reform groups are at the core of a new coalition, dubbed Fix the System, with the goal of putting more conservative and corporate muscle behind a cause that's generally dominated by progressives.
The effort comes at a time when many in the good governance movement worry their efforts are too diffuse and disconnected, and tilted too far left at a time of divided government. The hope is that, during a time of pandemic fear and economic distress, political polarization will ease enough to permit some good governance changes to muster bipartisan support.
The alliance has been in the works for months but was formally unveiled this week, along with its first public effort: getting Congress to include money to make voting easier and safer this year in the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization package.
Colorado has become the eighth state to end prison gerrymandering, meaning prisoners will be counted for redistricting purposes at the last place they lived instead of at the site of their incarceration.
Gov. Jared Polis signed that switch into law last week after the bill was passed by his fellow Democrats in control of the General Assembly. New Jersey passed similar legislation earlier this year, and nearly a dozen other states are considering bills, according to the Prison Policy Initiative's Prison Gerrymandering Project.
Proponents of the change say counting people where they are imprisoned when drawing congressional, state legislative and local government districts unfairly shifts power to rural districts at the expense of urban areas where a majority of the prisoners are from.
The Fahey Q&A with Jamie Lyons-Eddy, grassroots field marshal with lessons for organizing in a pandemic
After organizing the Voters Not Politicians 2018 ballot initiative that put citizens in charge of drawing Michigan's legislative maps, Fahey became founding executive director of The People, which is forming statewide networks to promote government accountability. She interviews a colleague in the world of democracy reform each month for our Opinion section.
This is the fourth in a series of opinion pieces we are publishing during Women's History Month to recognize the contributions of women to the democracy reform movement.
When I think of campaign powerhouses and those who can succeed against all odds, I immediately conjure up Jamie Lyons-Eddy. She was a co-founder of Voters Not Politicians and drove our signature-gathering and voter outreach operations as state field director. Jamie now helps lead the organization as director of campaigns and programs. We had an extremely timely conversation about strategies for advancing grassroots reform efforts during the coronavirus outbreak, the critical role women leadership plays, and Voters Not Politicians' continued work in Michigan.
Our recent conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Fahey: How did you initially get involved with Voters Not Politicians?
Lyons-Eddy: I answered a Facebook post. I had just retired from teaching math, and taking on partisan gerrymandering felt like a natural way to connect with politics using math. The Roeper School, where I taught, was founded by Holocaust survivors, so there was a culture of responsibility to use our skills and talents to do good in the world.
"Groaning bookshelves about our divisive times" are one of the main features of the publishing world these days, Kirkus Reviews notes. So we identified six books, all published since last summer, that are particularly worthy of note in a campaign season when the faulty functionality of American democracy is getting discussed more than in any previous modern election.
The authors come from the political left, right and center — but they all have a broadly similar panoramic view of the dysfunction plaguing our democracy. And their prescriptions for reversing the decline have more in common than not. What they all agree on: The principles of our Constitution are under assault and the citizenry's only chance at a successful counter attack is by embracing a broad array of plans for strengthening democratic institutions.