MI Vote Matters

NewDEAL Leader Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, celebrated National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday with the launch of the MI Vote Matters High School Voter Registration Challenge. This new initiative encourages eligible high school seniors to exercise their rights by registering or pre-registering to vote. Another NewDEALer, Alex Padilla, had significant success in registering and pre-registering 400,000 young voters with a similar program when he was Secretary of State in California, before being appointed to the U.S. Senate. To learn more about how Secretary Benson is encouraging young voters, read the article here.

NewDEALers On The Hill

This week, two NewDEALers traveled to Washington to testify before Congressional committees. Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read met with the Senate Finance Committee to discuss his state’s successful OregonSaves program, the first state-sponsored private sector retirement program in the nation. One of the country’s leading advocates for transforming American workers’ ability to save for retirement, Read touted the strong performance of the program, which has saved 110,000 Oregonians more than $123 million since its launch in 2017. Separately, former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes appeared before the Committee on House Administration to discuss voter suppression, subversion, and election worker intimidation. See more about Fontes’ testimony, during which he described the escalation of threats against election officials and implored Congress to pass legislation that provides “election workers and voters with safety measures necessary to enable them to do their jobs or to vote without threats or intimidation.”

Leading the U.S. Conference of Mayors

This week, NewDEAL Leader Dayton, OH Mayor Nan Whaley was elected the 79th President of the United States Conference of Mayors, succeeding fellow NewDEAL Leader Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. In an address to her mayoral colleagues, Mayor Whaley outlined her priorities, including effectively implementing the American Rescue Plan, securing passage of the American Jobs and American Families Plan, and addressing gun violence. “We are in the middle of a transformational era for our country, and I am humbled by the opportunity to work more closely with our nation’s mayors in this new capacity to make a real difference in the lives of our residents…there is no better time than right now to meet this moment by creating a more safe and equitable future that is available to all of us, not just some of us.”  Also announced were other members of the elected UCSM Leadership team, including the addition of NewDEAL Leaders Lincoln, NE Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to the group’s Advisory Board.

Protecting and Expanding Voting Rights Across the Nation

This week, NewDEALers across the country have made progress on protecting and expanding voting rights for all Americans, even as legislative attacks on these core rights continue. In Maine, NewDEAL Leader Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau’s Act to Establish Ongoing Absentee Voting was passed by the house, and if made law, will establish a process for voters to request ongoing absentee voter status for all future elections. In Nevada, a bill co-sponsored by NewDEAL Leaders Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson and Assemblymember Teresa Benitez-Thompson aimed at expanding voting access was signed into law last week, making universal mail-in ballots permanent for both primary and general elections. But state action won’t be enough to withstand the assault on voter access, a key motivation behind NewDEAL Alumna Stacey Abrams’ new Hot Call Summer campaign to mobilize young voters of color around the federal For the People Act to protect voting rights. To track the state of legislative efforts to expand or restrict voting rights, check out the Brennan Center’s State Voting Bills Tracker for a list of efforts across the country and watch our Voting Rights in the States virtual program from earlier this spring.

New Law Protecting Absentee Voting

Amid concerns around the impact of a lack of federal funding on postal service operations, Virginia’s Governor signed into law SB5120, co-sponsored by Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan. The bill allocates $2 million in prepaid postage for absentee ballots, authorizes secure ballot drop locations, provides voters the option to correct mistakes on their ballots, and eliminates absentee ballot witness requirements. “I understand this is an extraordinary measure,” McClellan said. “But these are extraordinary times.” Read more about the ways the bill protects absentee voting here.

California Unveils “Where’s My Ballot” Tool

Many voters are planning to submit ballots by mail this year, due to health concerns around voting and other logistic challenges, but some voters may feel anxious about whether their vote arrived safely for counting. NewDEAL Leader California Secretary of State Alex Padilla unveiled a new tool to help voters track their ballots, allowing Californians to follow their ballot’s progress step by step until it’s officially counted. Check out more details about “Where’s my Ballot” to learn more about how Sec. Padilla is using tech to adapt to the unique challenges of the 2020 election season.

Military and Overseas Voting Access Portal


Previously, active duty service members had limited voting options because they lacked access to a fast and safe way to cast their ballots. There are currently 84,000 members of the military who are eligible to vote but often are not able to because of such barriers.


Secretary Kander created an online, secure voting portal to expand voting opportunities for active duty service members and eligible Missouri voters who reside overseas. This simple and fast online portal makes it easy for eligible voters to participate and helps voting centers back home easily collect their ballots. The portal ensures no eligible Missouri voter, serving their country or residing overseas, is deprived of the right to vote.

Franchise for all Citizens


Utah has had a particular problem with diminishing voter participation. A number of citizens have said they simply want options as to how they cast their ballots: some want to vote by mail, others prefer to participate in early voting, yet others enjoy the activity of voting at their neighborhood precincts on Election Day.


Casting a ballot is the most direct method by which citizens can impact their government. By making it easier and more accessible to vote, states can increase voter participation states and restore citizen trust in government. Rep. Chavez-Houck initiated an Election Day Voter Registration Pilot Program in Utah, where counties can opt-in to test and see how viable same day registration is in the state. This approach addresses some concerns about the funding and impact of this program on the state by testing it out first to see what works and learning the best ways to engage more citizens to participate in each election.

New American Boost


San José is the largest city in Santa Clara County where nearly 110,000 Legal Permanent Residents reside who are eligible for citizenship but have not applied for naturalization. Obstacles such as language barriers, lack of reliable and accessible information, cost and fear are major barriers. Citizenship allows individuals to engage in civic life and contribute to the economy.


New American Boost promotes citizenship through information and resource displays located in the businesses and meeting places frequented by the immigrant community. In addition to providing information about the naturalization process, community resources and support services, New American Boost websites highlight and explain the advantages and opportunities available to citizens. With policies like New American Boost, Mayor Liccardo hopes to make it easier for immigrants to fully participate in civic, cultural and economic life in San Jose.

Equal Rights Milestone

Sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, the Equal Rights Amendement was passed by the Virginia legislature this week, providing approval of the 38 states required to change the U.S. Constitution in favor of gender equity. The amendment, which was first written nearly a century ago and passed by Congress in 1972, “seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.” McClellan also addressed the next step in seeing the constitutional amendment come to fruition, arguing that “there is no legal basis” for the deadline imposed by Congress for states to vote on the legislation; therefore, the Department of Justice cannot follow through on its position against the ERA going into effect.