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The State of Reform
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Voters Not Politicians

Katie Fahey (center) and Jamie Lyons Eddy co-founded Voters Not Politicians. They were honored at the Unrig Summit in 2019.

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.

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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.

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As hard as the fight for women's suffrage was, writes Jana Morgan, women of color like Sojourner Truth had to fight even harder to secure their rights to vote — and they are still fighting today.

Why women's issues are also democracy issues

Morgan is director of the Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition of 145-plus organizations from the labor, racial justice, faith, women's rights, environment, good government and many other communities.

This is the second 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.

This month is a time to reflect on the incredible work women activists have done to gain full and equal participation in democracy. It's also a time to reflect on the ways our democracy still shuts people out — and how we can join reformers to push solutions forward.

Women have been driving democracy reform for centuries. The dominant narrative of the suffrage movement is familiar, beginning with the Seneca Falls convention in 1848, featuring well-known activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and culminating with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote. These bold reformers redefined democracy for women. Thanks to them, this Women's History Month we celebrate not only the successes of the suffrage movement but also a record number of women in Congress and the multiple women who have sought the presidency this year.

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Abigail Adams may have been the first woman to engage in democracy reform in the United States.

Women’s representation is the heart of the democracy reform movement

Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for policy changes that would result in more women holding elected office.

This is the first 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.

Abigail Adams wrote to her husband at the Continental Congress in 1776, warning John: "If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." That famous quote is a timely reminder that women have long been at the forefront of democracy reform to demand that our voices be heard.

As our country celebrates a century of the 19th Amendment and the "universal" suffrage that came with its ratification, we also must reflect on the slow and minimal progress we've made in the past century.

Despite historic numbers of women in both houses of Congress, the United States ranks 82nd in the world for women's representation in national legislatures. And unfortunately, progress for women — especially women of color and conservative women — will continue to be slow because we have antiquated electoral norms that favor the status quo. The Founding Fathers didn't create a system or a country to benefit or include women; they built one to support and represent the powerholders at the table: white men.

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