Legislative Round-Up Part 2: Powerhouses of Progressive Policy

We’re back with more legislative victories from the field and the work just keeps on getting better. Alliance organizations mobilized young people and elected officials alike to pass progressive and innovative policies, block harmful legislation, and include more voices in our democracy. Here’s how they did it:

Chicago Votes: Expanding Our Democracy
Chicago Votes at the Cook County Jail

Chicago Votes has become a powerhouse of progressive policy. This session, two of the bills they helped draft and lead on passed the Illinois legislature! The first bill, Civics in Prison, allows non-partisan civic organizations to train incarcerated citizens to provide civics education to re-entering citizens. The second bill, Voting in Jail, would increase access to the ballot and civic knowledge for those in pre-trial detention at Cook County Jail where 99% of people are eligible to vote but most do not know they can. Chicago Votes is blazing a trail for brand new, innovative policies that fill the gaps in our democracy and ensure that our voting system works for all.

And if all this was not enough, Chicago Votes also lobbied to pass Cannabis Equity in the legislature. This bill legalizes cannabis usage, expunges convictions, releases people incarcerated for marijuana charges, provides employment opportunities for those wrongly convicted, and uses cannabis revenue for investment in impacted communities. 

MOVE Texas: Protecting Democracy for all Texans
Alex Birnel at press conference in support of Paid Sick Time

We all know MOVE Texas can throw down for democracy and this legislative session, they did not disappoint. Republican state legislators tried to pass SB9 –  a voter suppression bill masked as an effort to make state elections more “secure. This legislation would have created barriers to voting for portions of the population like people with disabilities, senior citizens, and those making unintentional innocent voting mistakes. MOVE Texas was not having it. After packed press conferences, lobby days, passionate testimonies, and countless phone calls, SB9 died. Don’t mistake the status quo for lack of progress. Fighting dangerous voter suppression efforts like this one is a major victory for Texas voters and our democracy.

Oregon Bus Project: Ensuring Every Mailbox is a Drop Box
Next Up Staff

The Bus Project has always been at the forefront of some of the most pro-voter policies in the nation like Automatic Voter Registration. This session, they are asking the legislature to create a task force to expand Automatic Voter Registration to other state agencies to ensure every Oregonian is seamlessly registered to vote. The Bus Project is also determined to turn every mailbox into a ballot drop box by leading the charge on legislation to provide paid postage for all mail ballots

In addition to leading this initiative, the Bus Project joined PCUN, Oregon’s Farmworker Union, in efforts to pass the Oregon Voting Rights Act, which would make it easier for citizens to bring a lawsuit challenging their jurisdictions’ form of voting in education districts. The Bus is also a partner on passing carbon pricing, a historic $2billion investment in schools, and banning no cause evictions. 

The Washington Bus: Bringing Youth Voices to the Legislative Table
Washington Bus

Oregon is not the only state pursuing paid postage. The Washington Bus has spent the last three years as part of the Steering Committee for the Washington Voting Justice Coalition shaping legislation to ensure all mail ballots in the state have paid postage. After bringing young people to hearings advocating for the pro-voter reform, paid postage passed!

The Washington Bus also supported legislation providing funding to education including K-12, higher education, and services for homeless and low-income children. They organized a letter writing campaign so young people could let their Senators know the importance of funding higher education and participated in the 2019 Advocacy Day for Youth Development and Expanded Learning Opportunities.

Leaders Igniting Transformation: Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline
Leaders Igniting Transformation at lobby day in Madison

In Wisconsin, Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) is building a brighter future for black and brown youth – especially in their schools. In May, they hosted a lobby day bringing 75 young people to Madison to demand better funding for public schools, an end to the criminalization of black and brown kids, and better school lunches.

LIT also worked in coalition with allies to introduce a series of pro-voter reform bills including Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and student IDs as voter IDs. They then put the pressure on Governor Evers to keep his promise on making AVR a reality resulting in him producing an Executive Order on AVR.

New Hampshire Youth Movement: Protecting the Student Vote
New Hampshire Youth Movement protesting student voter suppression bill

New Hampshire Youth Movement has been waging a constant battle for student voting rights. Recently, they held a mass moral protest demanding Governor Sununu sign HB106 which would remove the residency requirement for students to vote. Even presidential candidates are taking notice of the barriers New Hampshire has put up preventing many students from taking part in our democracy. We are grateful to organizations like New Hampshire Youth Movement who fight hard to ensure young people have full access to the ballot.

This voting rights work is part of New Hampshire Youth Movement’s larger Youth Agenda advocating for lowering tuition at New Hampshire universities and pushing legislation that would make it more cost efficient for communities to build solar power options.

In state capitols across the country, Alliance orgs are advocating for bold policies while stopping dangerous ones. This awesome work is a testament to what can happen when young people demand a seat at the table.