ANNOUNCED: First-ever Accelerator Award Recipients

Unite America

Today we announced the winners of our first ever accelerator award grants in partnership with RepresentUs.

Denver, CO — Unite America today announced 13 recipients of grants totaling $250,000 from its inaugural Accelerator Awards — a new program that provides seed funding to early stage organizations and campaigns working to advance non-partisan political reforms.

The 13 grant recipients, selected from more than 115 applicants, represent a diverse array of  projects around the country that aim to put voters first by increasing participation, competition, and accountability in our political system. 

“With more than 20 reform victories in 2018, the movement to put voters first is gaining momentum,” said Tyler Fisher, Deputy Director of Unite America. “We are proud to work with our partners to provide support to the growing number of activists and organizations who are taking a stand against political corruption and dysfunction.” 

The Accelerator Awards were presented in partnership with RepresentUs at the annual summit of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers in Denver, CO. The grants, which range in amounts from $10,000 – $25,000, were funded by the Unite America Fund, including support from Arnold Ventures. Grantees will also be eligible to receive critical in-kind campaign support from RepresentUs’ Campaign Accelerator program.

The selected projects represent three key strategic emphases:

Ending partisan gerrymandering across America – in both red and blue states ahead of 2021 redistricting. These organizations are working to institute independent redistricting commissions that allow voters, not politicians, to draw their legislative districts.

  • CHANGE Illinois
  • League of Women Voters of Nevada
  • Unite America Wisconsin
  • Common Cause North Carolina

Giving voters more power in elections. These organizations are working to institute open primaries or Ranked Choice Voting, which gives more voice and more choice to voters in elections. 

  • Ranked Choice Tennessee
  • FairVote Minnesota
  • RCV for Colorado
  • New Hampshire Ranked Choice Voting
  • The Committee of Seventy (PA)
  • New Mexico Open Elections

Getting citizens more involved in elections. These organizations are working to institute “vote by mail” solutions that makes it easier and more secure for voters to cast informed ballots in elections, or are working to activate young people to work in the reform movement.

  • Civic Nebraska
  • Common Cause Maryland
  • BridgeUSA

More details on these projects can be found below.

Grantees were selected by the Accelerator Awards’ review committee, whose members included: 

  • Tyler Fisher | Deputy Director, Unite America; 
  • Alex Kaplan | VP of Policy & Campaigns, RepresentUS; 
  • Seth London | Investment Advisor, Unite America Fund; 
  • Daniella Ballou-Aares | Founder & CEO, Leadership Now Project & Unite America Advisor
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings | Managing Partner, Article One Advisers & Unite America Advisor

2019 Accelerator Award Recipients:

  • CHANGE Illinois is working to establish an independent redistricting commission with a legislative lobbying campaign in a blue state where Democrats have successfully gerrymandered districts in the past. Accelerator Award support will help the organization fund it’s digital outreach efforts and organize lobby days at the state capitol in early 2020.
  • The League of Women Voters of Nevada is leading the change on an independent redistricting commission ballot measure that will need to be approved by voters both in 2020 and 2022. Accelerator Award support will be used to help the campaign collect signatures and begin their public education efforts.
  • Unite America Wisconsin is an independently governed organization focused on ending gerrymandering and electing Country Over Party candidates. Accelerator Award funds will support the organization’s work to place local referenda on April 2020 municipal ballots across the state calling for an independent redistricting commission in a state severely gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
  • Common Cause North Carolina has been working to pass a bill that would establish an independent redistricting commission in a state where district lines have been ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court. Accelerator Award support will allow the organization to host more public education events in districts represented by legislators who are primed to be supporters of the legislation.
  • Ranked Choice Tennessee is working to establish Ranked Choice Voting at the municipal and state level in Tennessee. Accelerator Award support will help the organization collect signatures to place an initiative on the Nashville 2020 ballot; in Nashville, the city spends $650,000 each election cycle on runoffs for 40 city council seats when a candidate does not receive an outright majority on the first ballot.
  • FairVote Minnesota has been working to advance Ranked Choice Voting since 1998, and is working to adopt Ranked Choice Voting statewide by 2021. To lay the groundwork, Accelerator Award resources will be used to support the organization’s advocacy for four 2020 local ballot measures in Bloomington, Minnetonka, Rochester, and Red Wing.
  • RCV for Colorado has made incredible headway in building a grasstops coalition and grassroots community committed to advancing Ranked Choice Voting in Colorado. Accelerator Award support will allow the organization to continue it’s grassroots organizing and public outreach efforts as it builds the constituency of reformers necessary to adopt the reform statewide.
  • The Committee of Seventy -- a 115 year old nonpartisan and good government organization — is leading the Open Primaries PA coalition, which introduced a bill in 2019 to open the state’s primaries to independent voters. Pennsylvania is one of nine states where primaries are completely closed to independent voters. Accelerator Award support will enhance the coalition’s digital outreach efforts to independent voters and assist with the convening of event of key stakeholders in early 2020.
  • New Mexico Open Elections has been advocating for Open Primaries in New Mexico for over a decade. In 2019, their legislation was passed out of a committee in the state’s House of Representatives, but action was not taken in the full body. Accelerator Award support will assist with the organization’s 2020 advocacy campaign.
  • Civic Nebraska is working to expand the use of Vote by Mail in Nebraska by supporting legislation that would allow all counties — not just those with fewer than 10,000 residents — to host elections by mail. Accelerator Award support will provide critical resources to the organization's policy and organizing teams.
  • Common Cause Maryland is working to advance Vote by Mail in their state. With Accelerator Award support, they will conduct a study of Rockville, Maryland’s recent implementation of Vote by Mail elections. The city was the first in Maryland to conduct all elections by mail, and voter participation increased by 88%, from 15% turnout to 27%.
  • BridgeUSA is developing the next generation of engaged, informed, and constructive citizens. Based on 25 college campuses, the organization is developing the leadership capabilities of reform-minded leaders and building a talent pipeline to service the growing number of opportunities to work on democracy reform. Accelerator Award support will allow the organization to develop partnerships with key organizations in the movement and provide funding for their students to do work at those organizations.
  • New Hampshire Ranked Choice Voting is a new project with the goal of bringing RCV to the first in the nation primary state by 2022. Accelerator Award support will be used to develop an organizational brand and strategy, as well as help promote grassroots organizing events.

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