What is the Midwest Democracy Network?
The Midwest Democracy Network is a diverse alliance of more than 25 nonprofit, nonpartisan civic engagement and community organizations dedicated to improving the condition of democracy in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Our Network connects state-based organizations with a constellation of regional and national public policy and academic institutions. We mobilize the power, expertise and energy of uncommon allies to change the way the people’s business is conducted.
We work to create a stronger infrastructure for democratic institutions throughout the Midwest by reducing the influence of money in politics, keeping our courts fair and impartial, promoting open and transparent government, creating fair processes for drawing electoral districts, guaranteeing the integrity of our election systems, and promoting ethical government and lobbying practices.
We join forces through the Network to advance our individual missions more strategically and jointly amplify the Midwest voice in the national debate on democracy reform. Specifically, the Network fosters communication among participants, builds connections with prominent resource organizations at both the local and national levels, and creates joint campaigns to tackle common challenges.
Our three primary organizational goals are to:
- Build capacity and diversity of state-based political reform organizations.
- Raise the profile of state-based political reform work.
- Impact the national debate around political reform and amplify the voice of state reform groups to ensure that proposals reflect the reality of state politics.
Why the Midwest?
The Midwest represents a microcosm of the nation. Home to 40 million people, the region frequently drives the direction of national sentiment during election seasons, and encompasses a strong mixture of urban, suburban, and rural residents.
Although we may live in states with very different political cultures, we do share core democratic values and aspirations for authentic citizen participation in the governance of our states and our nation.
The Network addresses the interconnectivity of political reform issues while also keeping in mind the synergy between our states. We understand that no single reform will cure what ails democracy and government, but we also understand that legislative and reform trends can spread quickly throughout the region.
Network groups and organizations collaborate together across state lines to pool resources, learn from each other's failures, share solutions and build a grass-roots reform movement that is big enough to matter. Midwesterners are hungry for reform, and only through collaboration can we propel Midwest voices to the national level.
Janice Thompson, Executive Director
Janice Thompson joined the Midwest Democracy Network in August of 2012 as its Executive Director. She is a native Minnesotan who previously worked in Oregon on democracy reform issues for 15 years, first as the leader of an independent reform group, and then Common Cause Oregon. Janice is an expert on public funding campaign finance reform and wrote a policy development resource guide for Public Campaign and co-authored a report on post-Arizona Free Enterprise policy opportunities for Common Cause. Janice prepared a major analysis, Improving Voter Participation: Oregon Challenges and Opportunities that was characterized by Secretary of State Kate Brown as “an outstanding report filled with suggestions on ways not just to get more Oregonians registered but to get them voting as well.” She also worked with legislative and organizational allies on a major overhaul of Oregon’s ethics laws, enactment of online voter registration, and formation of a National Voting Rights Compliance Council. Other projects include advocacy for National Popular Vote legislation and for a federal constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and rein in corporate power. Janice grew up in Minnesota and has degrees in biology and education from Carleton College and the University of Minnesota.
Brandon Lee, Communications and Program Coordinator
Brandon joined the Midwest Democracy Network in February 2011 as the communications and program coordinator. He generates content on Midwest reform issues for the Network's website and social media feeds, and produces the twice-monthly newsletter. In addition, he provides support and programming assistance for the Network's in-person meetings and issue projects. Brandon works in a similar capacity as communications coordinator for the Campaign for Stronger Democracy, a national coalition of advocates, scholars, civic organizations, public officials and concerned citizens, in which the Network participates. Brandon previously served a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Asian American Institute in Chicago, and graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in political science.